Increasingly, the 2024 election is expected to feature a rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Biden may be considered to have an edge, given that incumbents are difficult to unseat – although not impossible as Trump can tell you – and because Biden has already defeated Trump in a presidential election. But Trump should not be dismissed. It is true that 2020 was a novel election that happened to favor Biden. A more traditional election in 2024 will help Trump. Here’s what I mean.
2020 campaign was tailored to Biden
Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 campaign, both in popular votes and in the electoral college. But 2020 was a novel election with a distinct set of circumstances that happened to favor Biden.
The distinct set of circumstances? The coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic changed both the procedures for the 2020 election and the conversation – both in favor of Biden. With respect to procedure, 2020 was bizarre in that the nation was, for the most part, quarantining. So, the standard routines of a presidential campaign – endless days of handshaking and stumping and kissing babies – were dispelled. Instead, candidates were isolated just like the rest of us, confined to their basements for the occasional Zoom call. And what’s significant about 2020 is that the isolation-style 2020 campaign helped Biden and hurt Trump.
Biden’s articulation and vigor are fading. He is not an especially compelling public speaker; he doesn’t rouse the crowds. And as president, Biden reportedly works a strictly limited schedule (basically a Monday through Friday, 9-5) in order to preserve his finite energy.
Essentially, Biden is not well suited for a traditional campaign, which is an all-day, seven-days-a-week affair. So, the nature of the 2020 campaign made it okay for Biden to sit at home and campaign occasionally and still win.
Simultaneously, Trump – who is still full of vigor, and still capable of riling up a crowd as well as the next candidate – was confined to his home for the 2020 campaign, effectively eliminating his primary campaigning talents from the campaign.
But 2024 should be different. This cycle, 2024 should be a more traditional campaign – which will allow Trump to be Trump and improvise speeches in front of large crowds and spend all day out and about, meeting hundreds of thousands of people. And it will mean Biden can’t sit at home.
He’ll have to get up and get out and appear vigorous. Can he do it? My best guess is that he cannot.
I suspect a traditional campaign is going to put Biden in a position where his age and vitality become central to the campaign; I think he is going to appear old and tired – especially in contrast to Trump, who will be whirling around unconstrained, with unbound stamina.
Pandemic is over
The 2020 election was also distinct in that the issues that traditionally dominate a presidential election became somewhat peripheral; the election became deeply focused on the pandemic. Americans were understandably unhappy with what appeared to be scant progress made toward returning to normal.
Trump and his administration became something of a scapegoat for perceived shortcomings of the pandemic response. And Biden was able to swoop in, with perfect timing, and say exactly what Americans wanted to hear: that he would help us get back to normal. Biden won’t have the pandemic this time around.
This time, the election is going to be focused on the economy and inflation and Ukraine and abortion, meaning Trump is going to have a shot.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.