These days, the media only talks about Donald Trump's blunders and slips of the tongue. Lately, it is especially Joe Biden who has stood out for his blunders and his disjointed speeches... But the ex-president is also getting confused. And it's not just because he pronounces the word "Hamas" like "hummus" or seems to have trouble reading the teleprompter.
In New Hampshire, he introduced Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, as the “leader of Turkey.” He boasted of being better placed in the polls than Barack Obama (the latter being retired), and of having defeated him in the past, which is also false. When he took the stage at a campaign rally in Sioux City, Iowa, he said “Hello, Sioux Falls!”, Sioux Falls being a city in South Dakota. And he told his supporters: “You don’t have to vote, don’t bother going to vote.” Fatigue or sign of spoilage?
It’s definitely a strange electoral campaign. “And one of the strangest elections,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican political consultant. Barring a last-minute change, America is preparing for a duel of men at a very advanced age, between Joe Biden, soon to be 81, and Donald Trump, 77. Next to it, Ronald Reagan, re-elected at 73, would almost look like a youngster. Whoever wins will be among the oldest presidents in United States history. To the chagrin of a large part of the electorate who absolutely do not want these two middle-aged politicians, unrepresentative of a country where 45% of the population is under 35 years old.
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This is not the only incongruity. The Republican candidate is the subject of no fewer than 91 charges in several trials, after two impeachment procedures, and is trying to get re-elected at the head of a government that he attempted to overthrow by a coup d'état. Even more surprising, it seems that the Republican primary campaign is almost over, before it even begins. Two months before the first election in Iowa, Donald Trump is well ahead in the polls and already appears to be the big winner. According to the site FiveThirtyEight, he averages nearly 60% of voting intentions compared to 12% for Ron DeSantis, his closest rival. In Iowa, he is some 30 points ahead of the governor of Florida. Difficult in these conditions for his opponents to have a chance of catching up with him.
The ex-president took the opportunity to lead a completely heterodox campaign. He has held few electoral rallies so far and refuses to participate in televised debates. He prefers to broadcast an interview or organize a competing meeting on the evening of the debates, in order to reduce the ratings of his opponents. A strategy which thus prevents it from having to suffer attacks from its rivals. It must be said that his appearances in court and his constant criticism of judges and witnesses leave him little leisure. His entire communication is built on his legal troubles, which he presents as a democratic cabal to torpedo his re-election.
Another originality, the two favorites display record unpopularity. Surprisingly, the same percentage of Americans - 54% - have an unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump and Joe Biden, while 40% view them favorably, again according to the site FiveThirtyEight.
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The current president remains unpopular, despite an economy that is doing rather well, an unemployment rate at an all-time low and some major reforms passed... Alas! Voters mainly remember the high inflation, the rise in the price of gasoline, without forgetting Biden's age. Discontent is especially felt on the left wing of the party, among young people and minorities. “There is a real risk that they will turn away from the polls in 2024. They want a more dashing and less pro-Israel leader,” observes Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist. What worries the White House. Because like every four years, the election is likely to come down to a few votes in a handful of states.
“We are faced with a paradox. We already know who the two nominees will be, but the campaign remains full of uncertainties and possible surprises,” summarizes Ross Baker, politics specialist at Rutgers University. Given their age, neither candidate is safe from health problems. As for Donald Trump, it is possible that he will be convicted and receive a prison sentence. Additionally, in Colorado and several states, legal actions have been launched to prevent his name from appearing on the ballot, on the grounds that his actions led to the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, thereby violating the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Section III of this amendment states that any individual “involved in insurrection or rebellion” cannot seek elected office. Ultimately, it is probably the Supreme Court which will decide.
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It is very rare for a White House candidate to withdraw from the race. The most recent, President Lyndon B. Johnson, decided in 1968, in the middle of the primaries, to interrupt his campaign. He faced growing opposition because of the Vietnam War. But the scenario of Joe Biden or Donald Trump abandoning himself along the way is not improbable. This is undoubtedly why Trump's Republican opponents in the primaries are hanging on, despite their poor performance.
Several Democrats are also positioning themselves behind the scenes. In theory, Vice President Kamala Harris would be Joe Biden's designated alternate, but she is not very popular. “However, it will be difficult and dangerous to try to take his place. Such a maneuver risks alienating the black electorate, a pillar of the party,” continues Hank Sheinkopf. No matter: the suitors flock to the gate. In recent months, more than half a dozen elected officials have launched national organizations, taken trips abroad to build their CVs and traveled to key states. In case…