The Biden-Trump rematch, in many ways, has already begun

President Biden was at a Democratic reception in Maryland a few weeks ago when his rhetoric turned to an increasingly common topic — “what Trump does and what the Trumpers do.” An audience member shouted, “Lock him up!”, and Biden went on to cite “the new polls showing me beating Trump by six or eight points.”

Days earlier, former President Donald Trump was at a rally in Pennsylvania when he, too, turned to a frequent topic: “We’re leading Biden…by record numbers in the polls.” He said three times, with growing enthusiasm, “Then I might have to do it again!”

The country appears to be heading for a revenge that few voters actually want, but that two presidents – one current, one former – can’t help but talk about. Both Biden and Trump say they plan to make their decisions in the coming months, but with a lingering co-dependency between them, they each seem to be pushing the other in what would be a rare showdown between the same two four-year-old candidates. apart.

In a sense, given the growing attacks, a grudge match of 2024 is already underway. But it’s less of a heavyweight rematch the country is eager to see and more of a replay that few seem to be looking forward to. Neither Biden nor Trump is being enthusiastically received by his own party, according to a Washington Post-ABC News investigation published Sunday.

Some 56% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they want the party to nominate “someone other than Biden” in 2024, and 35% want him to run for a second term. Among those under 40, 75% want the party to choose someone other than Biden, despite his recent action on climate change and the cancellation of student loans, two issues that would interest young voters.

“I don’t think Biden did a bad job,” said Adam Kane, a 48-year-old museum director from Peacham, Vermont, adding that he loved and respected Biden. “But it is just time for new leadership. He’s just too old, that’s what matters. It’s time to pass the torch to the next generation.

Biden, 79, will turn 80 in November and is already the nation’s oldest president. Trump turned 76 in June.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are split on Trump, with 47% saying the party should nominate him and 46% preferring someone else. That’s a better performance than Biden’s, but it also reflects a marked decline in support since Trump’s time in office; a 2019 post-ABC poll found that 67% of Republicans and Republican leanings wanted the party to nominate Trump for a second term.

If they were to run against each other, registered voters were split almost down the middle, with 48% backing Trump and 46% backing Biden, the Post-ABC poll showed, within the margin of error. In 2020, Biden won the national popular vote by 4.5 percentage points.

“Trump is too much, and Biden is too little,” said Howard Walker, a 54-year-old Democrat from New York. He voted for Biden in 2020, believes Trump has turned the Republican Party into a cult, and says a Trump victory in 2024 would spell the end of democracy. But he no longer sees Biden as the top contender.

“Sometimes he’s there, sometimes he’s not,” Walker said. “Sometimes he tells long grandma stories that lead nowhere, which older people do too. And that’s fine, but that’s not what we need in a president.

Likewise, many Republican voters say they would support Trump if it were their only option, but they yearn for a new leader.

“It would be better if someone else shows up,” said Karin Cabell, a 58-year-old Republican from Hazelton, Pennsylvania. “It would be nice to have fresh blood on both sides.”

Biden and Trump, however, are in a sense each other’s archenemy, and the two may struggle to walk away from a rematch.

Trump considers Biden unfairly stripping him of the presidency, creating elaborate explanations for why he lost that have no basis in reality. Biden sees Trump as an existential threat to the country’s founding principles and sees himself as uniquely positioned to prevent Trump from returning to power. Unseating Trump in 2020 remains one of Biden’s proudest accomplishments.

“Why wouldn’t I run against Donald Trump if he’s the candidate?” he asked in an interview with ABC News in December.

The White House has recently seen an advantage in returning to a familiar foil, particularly in the run-up to the midterm elections, and Biden increasingly has Trump on his mind, or at least on his lips. “The only reason I ran was because Donald Trump was running,” he said at a June 10 fundraiser in Los Angeles.

At a fundraiser in Maryland in late August, Biden called Trump’s “extreme MAGA philosophy” “almost like semi-fascism.” It was a line that aides said was not expected later, but not surprisingly given Biden’s views. He also said that “Trump and the extreme Republicans of MAGA have made their choice: to go back, full of anger, violence, hatred and division”.

Biden’s rhetoric signals aggressive new approach

Biden has tested several phrases on the road to mark Republicans who follow Trump. He called them “The Trumpies” and “ultra-MAGA” and “MAGA Republicans”, and he said “this is not your father’s Republican party”. He says there are still mainstream Republicans he can work with, but “there is no doubt that the Republican Party today is dominated, led and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that’s a threat to this country.

Biden has sharpened his focus on Trump and escalated his rhetorical attacks, to the point where his central political message is now the importance of keeping Trump and his supporters in power.

“My friends, you cannot be pro-insurgency and pro-democracy. Not a joke. I’m dead serious now. You can’t be pro-insurgency and pro-democracy,” he said in Maryland. “You can’t support law enforcement and call the mob that attacked police on January 6 at the United States Capitol ‘patriots.’ ”

During his remarks on Friday, he warned, “It has become a litmus test in their party to swear loyalty to Donald Trump by accepting the ‘big lie’.”

Similarly, Trump, at his recent rallies, can mention Biden nearly two dozen times in a single event, claiming that Biden is doing a far worse job as president than he is and boasting that he would easily win a rematch. .

“A survey has just been released. Have you seen it?” he said at a Sept. 17 rally in Ohio. “I’m 18 points ahead of Biden. Who the hell wouldn’t be? Who would not be ?

Behind Trump’s Ohio Rally Soundtrack

He criticized Biden on gas prices — both for allowing them to rise in the first place and for using oil reserves to drive them down. And he insisted the cut prices wouldn’t last (“Right after the election it’s going to double and go higher than anyone ever thought”).

“Trump was right about everything,” Trump continued. “And I believe I was. I was right about everything. Including Afghanistan and Ukraine. The Biden administration is outrageous.

He also responded to Biden’s September 1 speech in Philadelphia, where the president warned Trump was seeking to tear the fabric of democracy, saying the remarks were “the most vicious, hateful and divisive speech ever delivered by a president.” American. ”

He said Biden was actually calling Trump supporters “enemies of the state.” He added: “He is an enemy of the state, you want to know the truth. The enemy of the state is him and the group that controls him, that revolves around him: “Do this, do that, Joe, you will do this, Joe. ”

One of the complicating factors in Trump’s potential presidential run is the growing series of investigations and lawsuits against him, which appear to be gaining momentum. Some analysts believe his legal troubles will make his candidacy more difficult, as he will have to devote time and resources to his legal defense. Others argue that Trump is even more likely to seek the White House now, as a form of protection against legal challenges.

Trump faces growing legal troubles ahead of 2024

The United States has a rich history of presidential rematches, dating back to John Adams, who defeated Thomas Jefferson in 1796 only to lose to him four years later. But there are few direct parallels to what might happen between Biden and Trump in 2024.

It is very unusual for a sitting president to be overthrown and then run against his successor. Most defeated presidents – George HW Bush was the last – head for a quiet retirement from politics. In this, as in so much else, Trump is an anomaly, choosing instead to take the country by storm to falsely claim he was deceived.

The closest parallel to a potential Biden-Trump rerun might be the 1892 race between Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland served one term as president before being ousted by Harrison, then he tried to get his old job back and was ultimately successful.

Their second campaign focused largely on the same issue that had dominated the first, such as tariff rates, and it did little to electrify the nation. “No one showed much interest in the outcome,” wrote historian Henry Adams.

“The election of 1892 was one of the quietest in American history,” said Troy Senik, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and author of “A Man of Iron: The Turbulent Life and unlikely Grover Cleveland presidency”. “Because Cleveland spent much of it plagued by gout and Harrison was concerned about the health of his wife, who was battling an ultimately fatal case of tuberculosis.”

Despite animated political cartoons — some referencing an out-of-wedlock child Cleveland allegedly fathered — the candidates lacked the mutual hatred of Biden and Trump. “Between the two candidates themselves, there didn’t seem to be any animosity,” said Charles Hyde, president and CEO of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site.

In fact, when Harrison was sworn in in 1889, photos show the recently ousted Cleveland holding an umbrella above his head as the new president was sworn in. A few years later—after Harrison defeated Cleveland, and Cleveland in turn defeated Harrison—some encouraged Harrison to show up again in 1896, for a third one-on-one game.

“Harrison briefly thought about it, then dispelled any idea that he would run again,” Hyde said. “After losing the 1892 election, he said he felt like a man released from prison.”

Scott Clement and Emily Guskin contributed to this report.


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