Biden’s Trump-focused campaign could be risky if Republicans shift
President Joe Biden built his 2020 White House run around promises to beat Donald Trump “like a drum.” As Biden gears up for an expected reelection campaign, he insists he can do it again.
But what if Trump isn’t next year’s Republican nominee?
Though the GOP primary race is only just beginning, a general election pitting Biden against any other Republican could look very different from one against Trump, with Democrats perhaps seeing enthusiasm to stop Trump at all cost evaporate.
Biden’s continually low approval ratings and polling showing that many Americans — even a majority of Democrats — don’t want him to seek a term that won’t end until he’s age 86 may also begin taking a bigger toll.
“I believe that, both for Biden and for Trump, going up against a new nominee would be more challenging than facing each other,” said Julián Castro, a former Obama administration housing chief who ran against Biden in the 2020 Democratic primary.
For now, Trump remains a leading figure within the GOP and exercises tremendous influence among primary voters. Still, the field of Republican presidential candidates is beginning to expand with his former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley,
announcing her candidacy. Polling suggests that GOP voters are open to backing someone other than Trump.
Beyond Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis could be a leading Trump alternative. More moderate challengers, such as former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, may soon emerge. Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, and secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, might run. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott is planning to visit Iowa, fueling speculation
about his political future.
All offer younger alternatives to both Biden and the 76-year-old Trump, and can promise fresher approaches to Washington, a point Haley made explicitly in her campaign kickoff. But so many choices could split the anti-Trump vote, perhaps allowing the former president to prevail in a fractured primary field.
Celina Vasquez, founder of the progressive group Texas Latinas List, said Biden’s reelection appeal is built on his experience, not simply defeating Trump again.
“My generation, and the generation behind me, we’ve seen the dangers and the disaster of the MAGA Republicans,” said Vasquez, whose organization promotes engagement by Texas Hispanic women at all levels of political office. MAGA is the acronym for the 2016 Trump campaign’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and has since become a general synonym for a descriptor of Trump policies and supporters.
Biden’s political standing within his own party is perhaps stronger than it has ever been. After Democrats showed surprising resilience during last fall’s elections, no major challenger has emerged to compete against the president in the party’s upcoming primary.
Democrats also just replaced Iowa with South Carolina to lead off their 2024 primary at Biden’s behest. And, despite still-high inflation, unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since 1969.
Top Democrats say another factor in Biden’s favor is that, unlike former President Barack Obama, who was seen as a political phenomenon, Biden only got to the White House after two previous failed runs and was never viewed as a potentially transformational Washington force. That has kept the party and voters alike from falling into the complacency that contributed to Democratic losses in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections under Obama.
For Biden, “the political nature of his presidency is one where Democrats around the country realize we all have a role to play in making sure he succeeds,” said Ben Wikler, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. “It’s everybody’s job.”
Some voters in competitive states such as Georgia, however, say Democrats would be foolish not to think that a younger Republican nominee could capitalize on Biden’s age.
“It really matters also who his actual opponent will be,” Latabia Woodward, founder of Who’s Got Next Music, a music tech platform in Atlanta, said after listening to Vice President Kamala Harris speak recently at Georgia Tech University.
For now, Trump remains a leading figure within the GOP and exercises tremendous influence among primary voters.