2024 PRESIDENTIAL RACE BEGINS
Analysis by Marco Vicenzino
November 16, 2022
*Trump seeks first-mover advantage, dissuade other contenders, dominate airwaves, and potential immunity from mounting legal cases
*Desantis would face a two-front war of attrition against Trump and Democratic Party
*Bouyed by midterm results, Biden has all but officially announced his candidacy. However, age, health and possible Democratic challengers loom large
Donald Trump’s early announcement for a third shot at the presidency marks the official start of the 2024 U.S. presidential contest. Trump’s decision to seek first-mover advantage is largely designed to neutralize other contenders and achieve centrality on the airwaves. However, this approach could potentially backfire in the longer term should Trump-fatigue set in and possibly provide an opening to other candidates.
Furthermore, with mounting legal challenges at the federal and state levels, Trump could acquire sufficient legal immunity should he win the White House.
Trump’s steadfast early presidential pursuit completely rejects any blame for the Republican underperformance in the midterm elections. Even mainstream conservative media’s Trump-dump will not derail him. For Trump, a second term is the holy grail. Nothing will dissuade him from achieving it. It remains his sole focus and obsession.
An attempt to simply emulate the 2016 playbook to win the Republican nomination – when Trump decimated over a dozen candidates – will simply not suffice. There are new realities in a far more diverse playing field. Trump’s core base will continuously highlight his achievements including an expanded Supreme Court majority, a pre-Covid thriving economy and delivering the Covid vaccine in record speed. For others beyond Trump’s base of support, Trump’s legacy remains the January 6th storming of Capitol Hill, toxic rhetoric, political polarization and more.
ENTER RON DESANTIS
The clear victor of the mid-term elections was Florida Governor Ron Desantis. By trouncing his opponent by nearly 20 points and campaigning across the country for other Republican candidates, Desantis formally sealed his role as a formidable contender with broad national standing and appeal beyond the mainstream conservative base – particularly among independents who could determine the outcome of the 2024 election.
The rise of Desantis complicates Trump’s political comeback and serves as the main threat to Democrats in 2024. If Desantis decides to make a presidential run, he would face a two-front of attrition against Trump and the entire Democratic party.
Desantis was subjected to a barrage of personal attacks by Trump before and after the midterm election. Astutely, Desantis did not take the bait and simply reminded the media to “check the scoreboard” on election day. Trump’s frontal assault on Desantis will only intensify over time. His no-holds-barred strategy of character assassination is designed to deter others from running against him – including Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
For his 2022 gubernatorial campaign, the 44-year old Desantis proved his fundraising prowess by amassing a roughly $200 million war chest – more than Trump in the same period and the most for any governor’s race in American history. $90 million remains available for a Desantis presidential race. Furthermore, some of the wealthiest Republican donors are already backing Desantis.
For the coming months, and until the 2024 primary campaign begins in earnest, Desantis must remain focused on his current path of avoiding direct confrontation with Trump and being an effective governor producing results. That is, accumulating more pragmatic policy achievements that focus on the basics concerning the wellbeing of ordinary citizens. In their respective gubernatorial campaigns in 2021 and 2022, Glenn Youngkin of Virginia and Brian Kemp of Georgia stuck to the real issues that mattered to voters, while avoiding any reference to Trump. As a result, victories were achieved.
Furthermore, Desantis’ continuous messaging must revolve around an optimistic future vision. In the midst of the gloom and doom of recent times, voters are craving for a hopeful, positive outlook and not anger rooted in past grievances whether real or perceived.
Once the Republican primaries begin, confrontation with Trump is inevitable but now is the time for Desantis, and any other potential candidates, to lay the groundwork and solidify their foundations for the bloody battle to come.
If the Republican primaries were held today, Trump would enjoy several front-runner advantages despite recent post midterm polling showing Republicans favoring Desantis over Trump.
One lesson from the 2016 Republican primaries is that a long protracted campaign with multiple candidates works to Trump’s advantage, particularly as he controls a solid third, if not more, of the Republican base – at least for now, but subject to change over time.
There are still many unknowns if a direct one-on-one contest between Trump and Desantis ensues. However, with primaries beginning in early 2024, the political landscape is rapidly changing in Republican ranks. After a string of critical electoral defeats, there are growing calls for a generational change of party leadership and the need to “move on” from Trump, and his constant focus on the past centered on relitigating the 2020 election. This growing sentiment to “move on” is more focused on Trump the person and less on the policies of Trumpism.
In the recent midterm elections, Trump-backed candidates easily won in overwhelmingly Republican states but largely lost in competitive swing-states, such as Pennsylvania and Arizona, where the 2024 election is likely to be decided.
The presidencies of John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Bill Clinton in 1992 marked generational changes of leadership. In 2024, younger figures such as Ron Desantis and Glenn Youngkin will try to position themselves as the representatives of a new generation of American leadership, not only within Republican ranks but beyond.
THE BIDEN FACTOR
Buoyed by better than expected midterm elections results, 80 year old Joe Biden has all but officially announced that he is running for a second term. However, age, health and potential Democratic challengers loom large.
Furthermore, poor polling in the midterm elections created false expectations resulting in the misleading perception that Biden had achieved victory. Arguably, at best he may achieved some form of parity.
The reality is that the midterms simply reconfirmed the status quo: America remains deeply divided and polarized. The overwhelming majority of incumbent senators and governors won their elections. Independents went slightly more to Democrats, largely due to the Trump factor.
Polls clearly indicate that American voters want neither Trump nor Biden as choices in 2024. However, Democrats would clearly prefer Trump as the Republican nominee. They view him as the most vulnerable and weakest link among Republicans in a general election. On the flipside, Biden is clearly just as vulnerable to a young Republican candidate like Ron Desantis.
For the sake of his party, the nation, and himself, Joe Biden should not run in 2024. The recent 2022 midterm campaign trail was littered with Biden gaffes, particularly when compared to a more dynamic Barack Obama. In 2024, Republicans would be relentless and unforgiving on his age and mental health.
For the Democrats, in 2020 Biden was a transition figure, or lowest common denominator, who could keep the party united and prevent a second Trump term. They succeeded in accomplishing their mission.
However, in politics everyone has an expiration date, which Joe Biden is soon approaching. It is best that he departs with a graceful exit at the end of his term and permit a new generation of leaders to seize the reins of power in America in 2024.