It may be too early to start the media consuming speculation about the 2024 presidential election. Just thinking about it can be exhausting in the context of the current crises. Inflation, Covid, Ukraine, open borders, climate change, are enough to dominate the feeling of unease underlying polls indicating that “America is on the wrong tack”. However, it is not too early to contemplate the outcomes of the 2022 elections and these contests will have a significant impact on the 2024 process.
The current political predictions, bolstered by historical trends, all indicate that the control of the House of Representatives will flip to the Republican Party in 2022. Democrats, under the reign of Speaker Nancy Pelosi now control the House by a mere ten seats, a 222 to 212 majority with one seat vacant. Thus Republicans just need to gain six seats to win to gain a 218 to 217 majority in the 435 seat body. Since all House members are up for reelection, that outcome seems to be an unrealistically low estimate of what can actually occur. In the Senate elections, Republicans need only flip one seat and hold on to their other twenty that are being contended to gain control.
The dismal outlook for the Democrats is based on several polls over the last few months. President Biden's job approval stands at 40.1% with 54.1 % disapproval. Sixty-five percent of poll responders say that the country is on the “wrong track”. The Gallup Poll found that while the Democrats still had a party registration advantage over Republicans of 28% to 24%, Independents far out numbered both party’s self identification at 46%. Independents however tend to “lean” towards one party or the other and when combined with the Republicans and Democrats as a group, the results were Republicans 47%, Democrats 42%.
However, despite the political advantage that the Republicans currently hold, the November elections are almost nine months away and the political environment is likely to change. The Omicron Covid-19 variant which now dominates new cases reported, is rapidly declining and is likely to become much less of a threat by next November. Barring another variant, this decline will have a positive effect on employment, supply chain issues, inflation and a general lessening of stress on the voting public. Federal Reserve monetary policy is predicted to result in periodic interest rate increases which will also reduce demand in key sectors of the economy and have a beneficial impact on inflation. A diplomatic settlement of the Russian threat of invasion to Ukraine could also have a positive effect on Biden’s approval ratings with a positive “coat tail” benefit to Democratic congressional candidates.
The message is clear; Republicans cannot assume that favorable results in November while likely, are inevitable. The election could be further complicated for Republicans by the continuing attempts by former President Trump to influence the Republican primaries through endorsements, including against some Republican incumbents, as well as his “off the rails” personal vilification of prominent members of the Republican House and Senate caucuses. These public positions and rants include his support for the Republican National Committee’s recent vote to “censure”Republican Representatives Cheney (R-WY) and Kinzinger (R-IL) for their participation on the House committee investigating the January 6, 2022 riot and invasion of the U.S. Capitol.
While there is little doubt that the Democrat controlled committee has cast a very wide and politically motivated net, finding out the truth of the motivating and participating individuals who may have been involved in such an egregious act is important in itself. The RNC censure describes the riot and insurrection as “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate discourse.”; an absurd characterization of the well documented violence and destruction carried out by an out of control mob. Numerous former Republican former government officials and several current Republican Senators have “condemned” this act by the RNC which has Trump’s personal anger at the two Representatives, both of whom voted to impeach him the second time, for his role in the insurrection, all over it. The issue is now dividing the party at the congressional level and risks dividing it at the primary voter level this year.
Trump’s adolescent name calling of those who have rejected his demands for complete sycophancy has reached absurd levels and make him look foolish to some and unstable to others. Trump continues to attack current and former senior Republican officials who were his supporters during his administration. He has labeled Senate Minority Leader, and possible 2023 Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, as “Old broken Down Crow” and a “Loser” and called on Senate Republicans to depose him. McConnell’s “crime”?; assigning partial responsibility to Trump for the Jan.6, riot. Trump has called Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), a key swing vote in the 50-50 partisan Senate, a “Wacko” for supporting a review and modernization of the vague 1887 Electoral Count Act. He has turned on his own former Vice President Mike Pence who was presiding at the time, for saying he had no constitutional authority under the Act, to overturn the 2020 Electoral College vote during the certification process being held at the time of the riot as Trump demanded.
One of the most important qualities of the U.S. constitutional system since it came in to effect in 1789, has been the peaceful transition of power characterized by the two term limit on the office of the President and the respect for our democratic election process. Trump has disgraced this tradition and process with his unfounded claims of the election being “stolen”, his refusal to attend the inauguration of his successor and his incentivizing of the January 6 insurrection of the capitol.
As he continues to try and make himself the face of the Republican Party, influence the outcomes of the November, 2022 Republican congressional primary elections while dangling the prospect of another presidential run in 2024, he forces the Party and its candidates to carry the weight of this personal and political baggage. While some candidates seem happy to openly support him and seek his endorsements, his continued intervention is a dangerous game at best. Many voters in his 2016 victory obviously did support his “American First” philosophy and the policies that followed from it. Border security, lower federal taxes, protection of U.S. energy independence, negotiations to improve international trade relations, low inflation an unemployment and resistence to the movement of the Democrat party towards the radical Left. However many of these same supporters made it clear that they disapproved of Trump’s volatile, ego centered, personality and unstable administration. In his single four year term Trump had four different Chiefs of Staff and three different Secretaries of Defense; two of the key posts in any administration. These character and personality flaws have even gotten worse since his loss in 2020. The outcome, and the shifting of attitudes away from Trump in both the electorate and Republican political establishment since then are worth noting.
In his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton, Trump identified a profound populist feeling of anger and alienation from the Washington establishment which he characterized as “the swamp”. He combined policies of border security and immigration reform, trade improvement, low taxes and reduced government regulatory power under a banner of unabashed patriotism and national identification.His pugnacious personality was overlooked by some and celebrated as a “fighting spirit” by others.
Hillary Clinton, a former “First Lady”, Senator from a liberal state, and Secretary of State under a liberal President, was the very personification of an entitled member of the Washington elite.
Trump broke down the Democrat’s fragile “Blue Wall” of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and won the Electoral College vote 304 to 227. But Trump lost the national popular vote by 2,865,000 votes.
After four years of hyper partisan conflict and savage pe rsonal attacks on Trump, by Democrats at all levels, including the majority of the national media, Trump responded with obsessive Tweets targeting anyone who criticized him. Political exhaustion in the electorate had set in and “Trump fatigue” became a factor in 2020.
Voting participation was up dramatically from 2016 and Trump lost the national popular vote to Joe Biden by 6,552,000 votes and the Electoral College vote 306 to 232. But more telling, Trump lost his populist appeal in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania and Biden flipped Arizona and Georgia as well. Perhaps the most significant trend shown in 2020 was that Trump’s support in all three categories measured of younger voters (18-49) lost ground from 2016. Also, among the large group of self identified “Independent” voters, Trump’s support declined from 47% to 41%.
Polls now indicate that “Trump fatigue” has held over from the 2020 election. A January, 2022 poll of self described GOP primary voters agreed with the opinion that “a new Republican candidate was needed to defeat Biden in the next election” (Nov.2024). Sixty-seven percent of this same cohort agreed with the statement that “Joe Biden is legally the President”; thus refuting the only issue that Trump is currently identifying himself with and one that will play a role in the 2022 congressional election for those who have won Trump’s endorsement and those who haven’t.
But the problem for the Trump endorsed candidates is serious. Another recent poll found that only 16% of Republican voters would “definitely” vote for a Trump endorsed candidate.” They might anyway, but the value of Trump’s endorsements and his credibility have all but disappeared. In an incredible attempt to finish it off he recently said that if he were reelected President he would pardon the insurrectionists who might be convicted in federal courts. This political version of putting on a suicide vest in a lightning storm may do the job.
Thus, the big picture currently for both the 2022 elections and looking ahead to the 2024 presidential elections supports the view that Trump’s time as come and gone. Republican voters cite Trump’s personality as a “major issue”. That’s a serious understatement and one that is certain not to change as his rants, lies, exaggerations and charges continue to grow. The 2024 Republican presidential primary contest will certainly be as crowded on as it was in 2016. In an admittedly early, hypothetical nine candidate contest of likely Republican candidates, Trump won only 36 percent against a field that for the most part lacked national voter identification or existing groups of “core supporters” like Trump. Put another way, these GOP primary voters preferred 64% of the other listed candidates or hadn’t made up their minds.
There are many unknowns with respect to the future 2024 Democratic presidential candidate which will effect voter’s choice including Biden’s age and health; Vice President Harris’s unpopularity and any number of external factors that might stimulate one or more Democrat challengers. But there are few unknowns about Trump. He is what he is and what you see is what you will get. Republican candidates in the upcoming 2022 elections should begin, or continue, the process of, divorcing themselves from Trump’s hold on the Party. They need not attack him as he will them but they should follow the change in attitudes which started in November, 2020 and have continued over the last year, and make him irrelevant to their campaigns, as the recently elected GOP Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin did. It is not necessary to be a Trump supporter to be a conservative and having Trump on the ticket in 2024 would dramatically change the focus away from the issues that the polls show are alienating voters from the Democrat’s far Left agenda and make Trump and his single issue “Big Lie” about the “stolen” 2020 election, plus his role in the January 6th insurrection and his inflammatory and irresponsible personality the main issues. A losing proposition.