This weekend, The Atlantic published the best analysis I have yet read regarding Presidential Campaign 2024. Entitled “Why Biden Just Can’t Shake Trump in the Polls,” and authored by the nationally renowned political analyst Ronald Brownstein, the column defines four key dynamics affecting the final election outcome. Two benefit the Democrats, and two bolster the Republicans.
The two dynamics favoring the Democrats are 1) The prevailing view of Trump as a threat to democracy, as exemplified by the indictments against him; and 2) The GOP position on the abortion issue, which post – Dobbs has alienated from the GOP masses of college educated white women and brought into play the GOP positions on other social issues which these women find repugnant. An example of this is the GOP position on LGBTQ issues.
The two dynamics promoting the Republicans are 1) Biden’s approaching the age of 81 and the concern for its impact on his performance; 2) the inflation issue, which crowds out the good news on the Biden economy over recent months, such as the moderation of inflation, the steady job growth, and the brisk recovery of the stock market. The electorate is not satisfied with a moderation of inflation; it demands an actual reduction in prices.
The question is whether any of the four dynamics will derail either Trump or Biden from becoming once again their party’s presidential standard bearer.
Abortion and other social issues will, as mentioned above, have a significant negative effect on Trump with women voters. Yet the impact will not be severe enough to endanger Trump’s path to the GOP nomination.
A federal conviction of Trump before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on July 15, 2024, however, will enormously increase the possibility of Trump losing the battle for the GOP nomination. The greatest likelihood for such a conviction, considering such factors as scheduling, the gravity of the evidence, and the seriousness of the charges is in the District of Columbia Federal District Court case.
This case involves allegations of Trump criminality regarding January 6 and attempts to steal the election. A conviction in this case is certain to ignite a two-front anti-Trump war, fought within and outside the GOP.
Within the GOP, there would be a floor fight at the Convention to have the GOP Trump delegates released from their pledges. Outside the GOP, there would be a national bipartisan effort to have Trump disqualified from the nomination under the Fourteenth Amendment, based upon his having committed an act of insurrection or rebellion.
According to the now famed treatise co-authored by former federal appellate justice J. Michael Luttig and America’s leading constitutional law professor Laurence H. Tribe entitled “The Constitution Prohibits Trump from ever being President Again,” Trump’s attempted bloodless coup of January 6, 2021 did constitute such a disqualifying act. The venue for this disqualification battle would be in state Secretary of State offices throughout the nation and in the federal courts, eventually reaching the U.S. Supreme Court.
As for the most likely alternative GOP nominee, I have already answered this question in recent weeks: Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. Youngkin’s chances are contingent, however, upon his winning the battle this November for Republican control of both houses of the Virginia legislature. If he is successful, he will have achieved the distinction of turning red a blue battleground state.
Recent leading Republican players have learned that despite Youngkin’s strong pro-life record, he has a special appeal to college educated, suburbanite white women, due to his successful leadership in enacting legislation that prohibits nondisclosure agreements from concealing details of sexual harassments or assault. According to a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, he is also emphasizing preventing tax increases by limiting the scope and extent of public employee collective bargaining agreements.
If Youngkin is the GOP presidential nominee, former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley would make an ideal running mate for him, both as a woman and as a person with extensive foreign policy experience, something Youngkin lacks.
The inflation issue has the potential to diminish to a certain extent the support Biden received from young voters and senior citizens in 2020. Such damage, however, may be mitigated somewhat by the President’s announced program of negotiation of prescription drug prices and the insulin cap. Certainly, the inflation issue will not preclude a Biden presidential renomination.
Yet Biden could incur severe damage to his credibility if he has a freeze episode like that of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell last week. It would cause grave concern among Democratic Party leaders for his health and spark calls for Democrats to consider an alternative candidate.
The prospective alternative nominee under these conditions who would generate the most enthusiasm in the national Democratic grass roots would be Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. No white governor in America has generated more enthusiasm among African-American constituents than this woman known affectionately among Detroit African-Americans as the “Big Gretch.” She has also been a supremely effective chief executive in Michigan.
If Whitmer wins the Democratic presidential nomination, she will be advised to pick a center-left running mate from the South for two reasons: 1) Democrats have real opportunity to improve their standing in the New South; and 2) historically, Democrats tend to do well in presidential races with centrist Southern governors on the national ticket (e.g., Carter, Clinton). Two Southern Democratic center-left governors who would make effective running mates for Whitmer: Roy Cooper of North Carolina and Andy Beshear of Kentucky.
One other factor that should assist the Democratic national ticket in 2024: If the Democrats win control of the House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries of New York will become the first African-American Speaker of the House. This will increase enthusiasm in the African-American community both for the 2024 Democratic Congressional and presidential campaigns.
Alan J. Steinberg served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission