The end of the weekend Labor Day would normally mark the beginning of a furious race towards the Iowa caucuses as candidates fight for their party's presidential nomination. But as the 2024 campaign comes into greater focus, the usual frenzy is giving way to a sense of inevitability.
Among the Republicans, donald trump dominates the primaries, outperforming rivals with resumes as governors, diplomats and businessmen that would normally be convincing. The former president's strength comes despite (or perhaps because of) multiple criminal indictments that threaten to overshadow any serious debate about the country's future. And for now, the tens of millions of dollars that Republican rivals are pouring into the race are doing little to diminish Trump's stature, fueling concerns among his Republican critics who fear the primary is essentially over before it begins.
As a troubled front-runner tightens his grip on the Republican nomination, the president Joe Biden is heading towards victory for the Democratic side. The 80-year-old incumbent faces only token opposition for the Democratic nomination despite concerns about his age and performance from many within his own party.
Whether voters like it or not, a rematch between Trump and Biden may be on the horizon, raising the prospect of a deeply uncertain election season that only intensifies the nation's political division. Trump is already skipping his party's presidential debates and his court appearances sometimes attract more attention than his campaign stops. And Biden has only just begun campaigning as she grapples with questions about her age and her son's legal challenges.
“I just can't imagine things changing noticeably. So, it seems that the past is prologue,” the governor of California said in an interview, Gavin Newsom a Democrat, praising Biden's record of achievements and warning his party not to underestimate Trump's political strength.
Newsom said concerns about Biden's age "are fair game and the White House knows it."
"But if age equals results," he continued, "I'm looking forward to his 85th birthday."
On the Republican side, fear is growing among some donors and party leaders who expected conservative voters to overtake Trump, given the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol he inspired and his serious legal challenges.
“A rematch between Trump and Biden would be a disaster for the country. "I'm very depressed about this," said Bobbie Kilberg, a prominent Republican donor who supports the former New Jersey governor. Chris Christie . He said it is “terrifying” that so many voters in his party continue to support the former president. "I refuse to believe that Trump is our inevitable candidate."
There is time for the 2024 panorama to change.
There are four months left before the first votes are cast in the Iowa caucuses and the general election is more than a year away. And recent history has many examples of overlooked and seemingly overmatched candidates who proved conventional wisdom wrong. Both Trump and Biden are among them.
There are also significant variables.
The abortion continues to tamper with elections – even in Republican Party strongholds like Kansas , Kentucky and Ohio- as voters reject Republican efforts to restrict access to the procedure. More backlash is possible as courts review access to a commonly used abortion pill.
And Trump faces 91 felony charges in criminal proceedings taking place in Washington, New York, Miami and Atlanta. They involve everything from his handling of classified information to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election to orchestrating hush payments to a porn actor.
The former president could be convicted before the general elections next November are decided. Still, party leaders, including most of his Republican primary opponents, have vowed to support him even if he is found guilty. And nothing in the Constitution prevents criminals from assuming the presidency.
At the same time, Democratic officials are deeply concerned about the prospect of a third-party candidacy under the banner of No Labels, a centrist group backed by a $70 million budget that is actively working to secure a spot on the presidential ballot. in at least 20 states. this year.
The group's leaders insist they would nominate a candidate next spring only as “an insurance policy” in case Trump and Biden win their respective primaries, which appears increasingly likely. And then No Labels would advance only if it is confident that its presidential candidate would not unintentionally help Trump win re-election.
Democratic leaders are not convinced.
Several current and former elected officials have been in close contact with the organization, including Sen. Joe Manchin Democrat of West Virginia, former governor of Utah Jon Huntsman and former Maryland governor Larry Hogan .
Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy a Republican who says he supports No Labels' mission, did not rule out running as a No Labels presidential candidate when asked during a recent interview.
“I don't want No Labels to present a candidate. I want both parties to respond responsibly to the challenges before us,” Cassidy said, indicating that he would not support Trump or Biden. He described his own presidential bid under the No Labels banner as something hypothetical on which he did not want to comment.
In dismissing Trump, the Louisiana Republican cited criminal charges against the former Republican president, doubts about his viability in the general election and the former president's refusal to “be honest with the American people” about looming Social Security budget shortfalls. and Medicare. .
Cassidy, a doctor, also expressed concern about Biden's physical and mental health. "She's clearly on the decline," he said.
In fact, both Trump and Biden have obvious disadvantages, according to a new survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research .
Biden He is “old” and “confused” and trump It is “corrupt” and “dishonest.” Those are among the terms most often used by Americans when asked to describe each party's leading presidential candidates.
But leaders of both parties are willing to overlook those problems.
Young Democrats of America President Quentin Wathum-Ocama admits that young voters aren't necessarily excited about a Trump-Biden rematch, but he hopes Trump's polarizing candidacy will give Wathum-Ocama's party the energy that Biden can not.
“Yes, people want a younger generation of politicians. “We have always talked about Joe Biden as, even he has said it himself, as a transitional figure in our political life,” he said. "As much as we see that people, for whatever reason, may not be enthusiastic or whatever, to me what's at stake is that democracy is at stake."
With virtually no exceptions, Democratic officials in Congress and in key states are coming out publicly behind Biden's re-election.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders , Biden's strongest rival in the 2020 Democratic primary, endorsed Biden's re-election bid hours after it was announced this spring. Biden recruited other potential rivals to his national advisory board. The group includes the representative Ro Khanna Democrat of California, to the governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker and Newsom.
Republicans have delighted in suggesting that Newsom plans to launch a primary challenge against Biden, something the California governor has repeatedly ruled out. That's even as Newsom hints at the possibility of a high-profile debate against Florida governor, Ron DeSantis who is among Trump's main Republican rivals.
Newsom said there would be a debate with Florida's governor, perhaps in November, although Camps is still working out the details.
“I can do the one thing that I hope to do more than anything else, and that is defend Joe Biden and what he has accomplished, and do it one on one,” he said of a debate about DeSantis. "That's an opportunity, a platform that I don't want to walk away from."
Meanwhile, in a show of confidence, Trump's campaign has already begun pivoting toward a general election showdown against Biden.
His team says he currently plans to skip all Republican presidential debates, and sees few consequences for skipping the first one last month. DeSantis, once considered a potent threat, has struggled to live up to expectations.
Trump's relationships across the party and his expansive political machine have made it extremely difficult for others to break through.
"The president benefits from having led the party for the last eight years," said Brian Jack, Trump's political director.
Trump is leading the fight for endorsements, winning public support from more members of Congress and statewide elected officials than the rest of the field combined.
The other candidates are also struggling to keep up with Trump's quiet campaign to control delegate selection rules for individual state primaries. For example, Trump officials successfully pressured California Republicans to award the state's 169 delegates to the winner of the March 5 primary, rather than doling out delegates to various candidates based on their vote share.
The reward for that work became clear late last week when a pro-DeSantis super PAC scaled back its operations in Nevada and other states that will host Republican primaries in March, including California, North Carolina and Texas.
Given Trump's overwhelming leads, some of his powerful allies have begun calling for other Republican presidential candidates to surrender. The mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, He ended his brief run for the White House last week after failing to qualify for the inaugural debate. But at least eight high-profile opponents remain.
“It has been clear for months that President Trump will be the Republican nominee,” the representative said. Elise Stefanik , the third Republican in the House of Representatives. "These elections are the most important of our lifetime and I will continue to ask Republicans to unite our entire party apparatus behind President Trump's campaign."
While Trump remains the clear favorite, he has a larger margin nationally than in some of the early voting states. And the influential Republicans there are still not willing to concede the nomination to Trump.
The governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, which hosts the second Republican primary contest after Iowa, is working to boost Trump's Republican rivals, warning that Trump has too many flaws to win the general election.
Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who was Trump's ambassador to China, also has doubts about the former president's chances in the general election, given the legal challenges that will unfold for much of next year.
“The focus of the election should be on Biden and his record,” Branstad said. "That's what bothers me. He plays into the hands of the Democrats.”
And he added: "I think this is going to get more complicated."
Not even Trump is willing to say that he has already secured the Republican presidential nomination.
"I don't want to say that nothing is over because I don't say that," Trump said Friday on WABC. “I won't be a believer until it's all over, right? As Yogi would say: “It's not over until it's over.”