The State of the Race, 2024: Things Look Incredibly Bleak for Republicans
Biden's campaign isn't perfect, but it's hard to overstate just how bad some indicators are for the GOP right now.
At the start of the year, it seemed as if 2023 might be a highly dramatic year for politics. For the first time in well over half a decade, Donald Trump’s grip over the GOP appeared to be slipping, setting him up for a brutal fight in the primary. And while Biden was generally expected to run for a second term, it wasn’t totally implausible that he could stand down. There were at least some pieces in place for real unpredictability before the general election.
But this, as we all know, is not how it turned out. Biden, for better or worse, announced his bid for re-election a few months ago, immediately making him the presumptive Democratic nominee for President. Around the same time, Trump experienced a surge in Republican primary polling that has put him right back where he started before the midterms—i.e., not far from essentially being his party’s presumptive nominee as well. While nothing even in the short-term future is entirely certain when you’re talking about an 80-year-old and a 77-year-old—the latter of which is under a total of four active or very likely criminal indictments—you can already say that if the 2024 election does end up being Biden v. Trump again, we’ll have known well beforehand.
In fact, we’ll have known historically early. You have to go really far back to find an election where the two major party nominees were known this far ahead of time. And believe me, I’ve tried. You might think it was 2000, but both Bush and Gore faced at least semi-serious primary challengers back then. 1980 makes some sense until you remember that Carter somehow faced a serious challenge as an incumbent. 1956, the most recent rematch, comes the closest to fitting the bill: both Stevenson and Eisenhower won on the first ballot, but the former faced a tight primary race. Even if you go all the way back to 1892 (1892!) for the most recent incumbent-vs-ex Presidential rematch, you find that Grover Cleveland faced a serious challenge at the convention, nearly losing the first ballot vote.
At this point, I was thinking that there might actually never have been a (contested) election where the contenders were this obvious this early. But that, as it turns out, is actually not the case. Indeed, all you have to do is go all the way back to 1828, the race between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, to find a race that legitimately had no intrigue leading up to it. 1828! That wasn’t just before the modern nominating system—we didn’t even have actual political parties in that election! You can very easily make the argument that this is the most stable pre-election period since the establishment of democracy in America. If the last two elections were abnormally chaotic, the pendulum seems to be swinging well and truly in the other direction this year.
But underneath this veneer of stability, a lot has been happening under the surface. While the topline of the election remains the same, enough has occurred since the last time I published my outlook on the state of the race that I think it’s worth going over the new things we’ve learned since then. These incidents and indicators vary wildly, ranging from to midterm turnout reports to White House messaging to state house elections. But when you put them together, they converge to tell one story. While the Biden campaign might not be doing everything perfectly, if you look closely, an already bad outlook for Republicans is verging on becoming outright disastrous.
And they don’t seem to have any plan to fix it.
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