This time President Joe Biden’s likely faceoff against his predecessor former President Donald Trump could boil down to a personality contest.
American elections have become beauty contests. How a candidate looks and acts, and how they feel now is more important than competency for many Americans.
“If they were smart, Republicans would listen to former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who scolded his party after last year’s election: ‘We dislike Biden so much, we pettily focus on his speaking difficulties, sometimes strange behavior, clear lapses of memory, and other personal flaws. Our aversion to him and his policies makes us underestimate him and the Democrats,’” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote. “So what does the GOP appear prepared to do? Nominate Trump yet again. Refuse to rethink extreme positions on issues such as abortion and gun violence that are radically out of step with majority opinion. Energize Democrats while repelling independent voters.”
Millions of Americans voted against Trump in 2020 and not for Joe Biden.
A November 2020 Morning Consult exit poll found that 44% voted against Trump in 2020 and not for Biden. By contrast, only 22% of Trump voters claimed they voted against Biden. Trump’s erratic behavior and mean tweets turned voters off by the millions. Candidates such as Kari Lake and Mehmet Oz who were endorsed by Trump suffered from his poor reputation among voters.
“Being underestimated is Biden’s political superpower. He used it to win the Democratic nomination in 2020; he used it to pull off the rare feat of ousting an incumbent president. He has used it to pass historic legislation with tiny congressional majorities, to thwart Russia’s brutal attempt to conquer Ukraine and to turn what Republicans thought would be a “red wave” midterm election into a sad little ripple,” Robinson said.
Trump won in 2016 largely because Hillary Clinton was considered by many voters as even more unlikable than he was. Voters had Clinton fatigue after 24 years of her and her husband, Bill Clinton, having been in the public spotlight. He also was
That formula did not work against Biden in 2020, and it will not work again in 2024. Polling shows that Trump’s legal woes including the indictment and lawsuits against him are a major concern for Independent voters next year.
“Currently, just over half of Americans (52%) view the charges against Trump as serious (was 50% last week). Additionally, half of Americans (50%) say Trump should have been charged with a crime in this case, up five percentage points from last week. The slight changes in both cases look to be drawing from people who said ‘don’t know’ in the earlier survey, a number that is down six percentage points in both questions,” Ipsos said in its press release about the latest poll of 566 adults conducted on April 6-7.
And 47% said they thought that Trump should suspend his campaign due to the indictment.
Trump has a strong cadre of people who will vote for him, but his personality will overshadow Biden’s gaffes just like in 2020. Calling Biden “Sleepy Joe” and mocking how Biden was not attracting the same crowds he was, nor talking about how Biden campaigned from his basement helped Trump win the vote needed to win re-election.
“A Biden-Trump rematch is not the contest most Americans would like to see. But elections are choices. And while polls may say that Biden’s approval rating is low, they consistently report that Trump’s is lower,” Robinson said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis trails Trump by a wide margin in the polls; however, he does much better with Independents who loathe Trump and consistently beats Biden in trial heats.
In Arizona, Biden beats Trump by a 44% to 42% margin: however, DeSantis wins 45% to 41%. In Georgia where Trump faces indictment for allegedly intimidating state election officials, Biden beats Trump 45% to 44%, while DeSantis beats Biden 47% to 45%. In North Carolina, which Trump won in 2020, Biden beats Trump 45% to 44%. In Pennsylvania, Biden trounces Trump 46% to 44%, and DeSantis beats Biden 45% to 44%.
If DeSantis shows the ability to become competitive against Trump in 2024 by showing voters how Trump’s words and his actions as president, especially during the pandemic did not always line up, things could be different.
New Hampshire is 10 months away, and DeSantis has not really begun to campaign. Polling showing that DeSantis can beat Biden and that Trump still loses to Biden for the same reasons he lost in 2020 could be a selling point for the Florida governor.
“If he were out of the picture, and not heckling or sabotaging the GOP nominee from the sidelines — like I said, this is an unlikely scenario — would a younger, more conventional Republican be a more formidable opponent against Biden? Would Biden even run? Might the president step aside in favor of the next generation?” Robinson said. “Get lost in that kind of reverie, Republicans, and you’ll wake up to see him being sworn in for his second term.”
Trump’s biggest enemy is himself.
John Rossomando was a senior analyst for Defense Policy and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award in 2008 for his reporting.