(Photo courtesy of GMFUS). “2024 Presidential Election ”
Now that Donald Trump has won the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary, it is virtually inevitable that the 2024 presidential election will be a rematch between himself and Joe Biden. Even though a rematch is inevitable, opinion polling has defined the race by what it is not in the eyes of most Americans: exciting or appealing. Public opinion about the race has shown that most Americans are not at all excited about Joe Biden and Donald Trump being the two main candidates and would prefer a candidate running in a third-party. Now faced with a bitter rematch no one seems to want, it is worth examining the circumstances that brought the country to this point.
Joe Biden being the Democratic Party nominee is easy to understand, and it is the same reason why Trump was easily the incumbent in 2020: incumbent presidents have not faced significant primary challenges in the last 45 years. The few primary challengers he did face, such as Congressman Dean Phillips or Marianne Williamson, were never going to pose a threat to his support within the Democratic Party. In fact, Biden won the New Hampshire primary through a write-in campaign and was not on the ballot due to issues between the Democratic National Committee and the state over its revised primary schedule. At this point, some sort of serious health scare is the only thing that would stop Biden from being the Democratic nominee and his replacement would be Kamala Harris.
In the Republican presidential primaries, the comfortable and consistent lead that Donald Trump has enjoyed in opinion polling for several months is now translating into state primary victories. After a shock win in 2016, Trump has effectively reshaped the Republican Party in his image. Nothing has made him fall out of favor with his party’s base in the last six years, so he is now reaping the electoral victories that come with strong control over a political party. UMass Lowell Associate Professor of Political Science John Cluverius described Trump’s unique status in the primary as “…[not] exactly an incumbent because he’s not currently the president” and “…an easy leap to default to him as the candidate.”
Republican primary voters like Trump most of all, but that does not mean he would easily win in every scenario. Last year, Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump were neck-and-neck in two-way Republican primary polling. At the time, this had shown that there was palpable support for a non-Trump candidate if they had, in the eyes of Republican primary voters, a compelling message. A year later, the race is now down to Trump and Nikki Haley after Ron DeSantis suspended his campaign on Jan. 21. The fabled two-way race is here, but the competition is nowhere to be found. Trump’s lead is so firmly cemented that there is nothing anyone in the party can do to stop them, and all that is left of the primary is to watch him win landslide victories in the remaining 48 states.
As it comes to a close, the 2024 Republican presidential primary has been defined by its’ candidates’ failure to communicate. Some could not articulate their campaign message well enough, some did not have a message that would be compelling to primary voters and others flat-out helped Trump by dividing the field even more and fracturing support for the viable non-Trump candidates. In describing DeSantis and Haley, Professor Cluverius said, “The core of DeSantis’ argument was ‘I can deliver a Trump-like agenda more competently than Donald Trump’, but people just didn’t buy that message. On the other hand, Haley seems like a candidate out of time from a year like 2012.”
With the primaries over, attention then turns to November’s general election. However, much can change in nine months’ time. Professor Cluverius was personally wary to view a lack of enthusiasm as permanent and instead pointed to a potential enthusiasm gap, saying that, “2020 was one of the most enthusiastic elections in American history, especially when you look at how many people were paying close attention months out. It was at record numbers. And now I think we are having a more normal presidential election where most Americans will not be paying attention until 2 months.” Until then, one can expect seven more months of the current political climate.