Donald Trump and Joe Biden, two veterans still in the running for 2024
Biden loser, Ron DeSantis new Republican heavyweight
For reasons that are as much legal and psychological as they are political, the billionaire believes that he has no choice but to run for president. Failure to do so would leave him vulnerable to criminal and civil suits being brought against him – and, worse from his point of view, would condemn him to insignificance. But the midterm election results showed that Donald Trump was once again a loser, as many of the candidates he backed were voted down by voters.
And meanwhile a potential primary challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has emerged as a new Republican heavyweight. Donors and Republican officials, many of whom want to get rid of the real estate billionaire, will look to DeSantis.
Glenn Youngkin, Mike Pence
Others will look to Glenn Youngkin, the governor of Virginia, who offers a softer and more appeased version of the Republican social and cultural crusade than the governor of Florida. Still others will lean towards Mike Pence, who was Trump’s vice-president but who, following his refusal to accede to Trumpist demands to alter the results of the 2022 elections, can claim before evangelical Republican voters a certain integrity. But it is impossible to pretend that Donald Trump does not exist.
The former president knows how to use his influence, which often allowed him to deliver devastating blows despite the mediocre game he had in hand.
Fragmenting the anti-Trump vote
From his point of view, the more opponents who fragment the anti-Trump vote in the primaries, the better. And yet Trump’s approach will also continue to hamper him in a general election. His famous statement about the loyalty of his supporters – that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without them withdrawing their support – is only part of the story.
He cannot even boast of having succeeded in deploying the vaccination against Covid-19; when he declared in a meeting that he had received a booster shot, he was booed. This obsession with stroking his most extreme supporters in the direction of the hair explains why he never had real majority support, and why he can no longer hope to obtain one. Most Americans are deeply sickened by his number.
Democratic pressure on Joe Biden
In the Democratic camp, meanwhile, President Joe Biden will come under pressure not to seek re-election due to his advanced age and lack of popularity.
As soon as another Democrat – Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan, or Jared Polis, Governor of Colorado – announces his candidacy, other Democrats will join him. But Joe Biden could hang on. In which case, Americans will have to choose between two elderly antagonists that the majority does not want.
What if Biden had the wisdom to step aside
If Joe Biden had the wisdom to stand down, Kamala Harris will highlight her role as vice president and her identity as a black woman as reasons why Democrats should rally around her. Some will. But other members of the administration, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg or Commerce Secretary and centrist favorite Gina Raimondo, will line up, sparking heated debate over the direction of the party.
Read alsoBiden-Trump: towards a hypothetical return match in 2024
To Americans concerned about the state of their democracy, the new generation of leaders may well demonstrate that it is in excellent health.
James Bennet, Lexington columnist, The Economist