Photo: Chip Somodevilla Getty Images via AFP Election posters for different candidates were clearly visible during the New Hampshire primaries in January
Aurélia End – Agence France-Presse
February 9, 2024
Nine months in politics is a long time, but for an American presidential campaign, it is simply an eternity: Donald Trump and Joe Biden will engage in a duel between now and November that is as exhausting as it is interminable, under the gaze of 'an America already tired.
If further proof was needed that this race until November 5 will be unlike any other, it was given on Thursday.
First there was the devastating report from a special prosecutor, in a case of confidential documents, pinpointing the failing memory of the 81-year-old Democrat.
Then there was this incredible sight of a livid American president, hastily summoning the press to say: “I’m an old man and I know what I’m doing, dammit. I don’t have any memory problems.”
Usually, it is in the summer, after the official inauguration of the candidates of each party, Republican and Democratic, that the fight becomes really intense.
But this election is definitely not ordinary.
Firstly because, almost from the beginning, the duettists were known. Neither the Democratic president nor the 77-year-old Republican tycoon has serious competition in the primaries.
Secondly, because it pits the current president against a predecessor, a scenario all the more unusual since the latter, moreover, still refuses to recognize his defeat in 2020.
Finally, because this return match is already exhausting the electorate.
A University of Massachusetts poll released on February 5 found that 53% of respondents would prefer Trump not to be the candidate, and 57% say the same about Biden.
However, everyone remains convinced that they are the best possible candidate. And each week that passes makes the prospect of one or the other withdrawing more unlikely — barring a serious accident, particularly health-related.
This brings us back to the question of the age of the two candidates, who will exhaust their bodies with incessant travel and repeated speeches.
All the polls show that on this issue, voters are more worried about Biden than about Trump.
The Democrat, whose moments of confusion are scrutinized more closely than those, however undeniable, of his opponent, “must show voters that he has the strength and cognitive abilities required, and the only way would be to put himself in spontaneous situations, where they see him thinking and answering questions in real time,” points out Robert Rowland, professor of political communication at the University of Kansas.
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But it is precisely during impromptu exchanges that Joe Biden is most likely to mix up the names of foreign leaders or stammer.
Conversely, if the octogenarian protects himself, he maintains suspicions – for example by refusing to give the traditional interview on Sunday preceding the Super Bowl, the final of the American football championship, to disproportionate audiences.
His supporters, however, want to believe that time is on his side. By November, they believe, Americans will better understand the good economic health, and the “nightmare” – Biden’s word – that a new Trump mandate would be.
Academic Robert Rowland draws a parallel with Ronald Reagan's re-election campaign in 1984, which got off to a bad start. But the former actor had managed to take credit for a good economic situation and to be re-elected.
Except that, the professor emphasizes, “Reagan had a gift for reviving the American dream that Biden does not have.”
Who says endless campaign, also says quest for relays to distribute the effort.
On the Democratic side, Biden can mobilize the young guard — certain dynamic governors like Gavin Newsom (California) or Gretchen Whitmer (Michigan) — or even Barack Obama, with undeniable charisma.
Trump, for his part, should rely mainly on the fervor that his person and his message continue to arouse.
The Republican presents himself as a providential man, the only one capable of saving America from “decline” and protecting the working classes against the enemies he himself designates, namely immigrants and ” elites.”
What could work against the 77-year-old tycoon is the legal time, with the various proceedings opened against him, four of which are criminal.
By November, if one of these procedures results in a conviction, the electoral tide could turn.
A recent poll released by NBC puts the Republican ahead of Biden in terms of voting intention (47% versus 42%). But when the voters surveyed were asked who they would vote for if Trump were convicted, the result was reversed: 45% for the current president, 43% for his predecessor.