In a year, Americans will return to the polls to elect their president. At present, the most likely duel would pit Joe Biden against Donald Trump, the two most recent residents of the White House. But while the first is overwhelmed by the polls these days and the second, by legal proceedings, the 2024 election promises to be as unpredictable as those of 2016 and 2020. Le Devoir makes the point with Charles-Philippe David, president of the Observatory on the United States and founder of the Raoul-Dandurand Chair in strategic and diplomatic studies at UQAM. Comments collected by Jasmine Legendre.
Primaries will begin in January. Are there points of contention within the two main parties?
First, I would like to add a nuance: there will be interesting primaries to watch on the Republican side, while on the Democratic side, for the moment, there is really only Joe Biden and a few other fringe candidates. I think the Democratic primaries are going to be pretty much symbolic. The main issue is: what will happen to Donald Trump? Can he really be the Republican Party’s nominee? We are dealing with a completely atypical context, which we have never seen in American electoral history, namely a politician who, at the same time, is undergoing trials and is a candidate. So we're innovating, we don't know where we're going with this.
Precisely, two lawsuits could make Donald Trump ineligible for the next election. Is this a likely scenario?
There are currently lawsuits taking place in the states of Colorado and Minnesota. In Colorado, a citizens' group is calling for Trump to be declared ineligible for supporting an insurrection and, according to the 14th Amendment — which was adopted after the American Civil War during Reconstruction — , someone who participated in the war cannot be a candidate to represent either a party or a government. Even if the judge declared Trump unfit, bet that it will go to Federal Court, and then bet that, if the result goes against him, he will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States.
< p>But let's admit that he is still eligible, the fact remains that there are four trials that stick with him, including one that could particularly hurt him. It is that of Georgia, for which he cannot grant himself an amnesty and can be sent to prison. Which would lead us to absolutely nameless legal and political aberrations.
There is still a divide within the Republican Party, precisely because of Donald Trump. How will this take shape in the next year?
The problem is that every time, we hope that there is an anti-Trump candidacy that emerges within the Republican Party… and that is not the case. People thought that Ron DeSantis would be the savior… we can now conclude that it turned out to be more of a flash in the pan. Some have believed that Nikki Haley could be a formidable candidate against Donald Trump — and I think she would be quite ready to serve as president of the United States — but even then, the support scores are quite low for her. As for Mike Pence, he withdrew from the race.
About ten candidates are running or have run against Donald Trump, but the fact is that he has more support than all the others combined. That gives you an idea of its popularity. It is immovable, it is around 50%. He is more popular at this point, in 2023, than he was at the same time or even a little later, in 2016, at the start of the primaries.
Several Analysts are calling it a “revenge” election for the Republicans. Would this mean a return to the era of Trumpism?
I like the phrase “the vengeance presidency.” He wouldn't give anyone any quarter. He would have no accountability to anyone, but a lot of scores to settle, including with the bureaucracy, the Democrats, Joe Biden. This would be a huge setback, even worse than that of 2016, for American politics. We hardly dare think about it, but it's true that we have to prepare for it.
That said, the chances remain very good for Joe Biden, especially if nothing bad happens to him. here the election of November 5, once again rallying all the anti-Trumpists, independent and Democratic voters. By somehow managing to create this “anti-Trump” rather than “pro-Biden” coalition, to save the furniture.
But let's be careful, because we were already wrong in 2016, thinking that Hillary Clinton would win easily.
How could the war between Israel and Hamas influence the presidential election in next year?
It could be one of the jokers.When you think you have a handle on the political spectrum, even when you are President of the United States, a surprise happens to you that can turn everything upside down. Joe Biden has barely or about the same popularity as Donald Trump. They are neck and neck. If there were an election today between the two, we would be in the same scenario as 2020. Biden does not have the luxury of losing Democratic voters. However, young Democrats are rather angry at the fact that the American position is also pro-Israeli, and not enough or insufficiently pro-Palestinian. I think that's not entirely true in the reality of what Joe Biden is doing, but it's the perception of young Democrats, who are much more to the left than the average Democratic voter, and especially of independent voter. How will Biden build support for Israel and sensitivity to the Palestinian cause? This is the question of the hour which must be discussed in the political offices of the White House.
There is also Ukraine and many domestic political issues such as the economy, abortion, firearms… but it's true that Gaza is further upsetting all political calculations.
The battle of 2020 could therefore be replayed in 2024. Joe Biden's popularity rating is not on the rise . What does this portend?
A match that will go to the 12th, 15th, or even the 20th round. It's going to go into overtime, probably decided once again by a few hundred or a few thousand votes and played out in a few key states. Barring any surprises… If something happened to Joe Biden or Donald Trump, it would completely change the political scene. An escalating war, disastrous economic news for Americans, and voters could vote with great bad humor on November 5, kicking Joe Biden out of the White House, even at the cost of putting Donald Trump back. No one serious can predict the outcome of this election a year from now.
Which states are worth watching?
There are the three traditional ones, in what has been called the Democratic wall – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – because these are states which can, as in 2016, turn around and go to the Republican side. . They returned to Joe Biden in 2020, but where will they go in 2024? Much like Hillary Clinton, who lost by a total of 80,000 votes in those three states, Joe Biden won them by a little over 120,000 votes. So it's a bit of a challenge.
And then, there are three southern states which are also in the process of changing. Georgia, Arizona and Nevada have often been red (Republican), but have been increasingly blue (Democratic) for at least one presidential election, due to demographic changes. For example, winning the Hispanic vote will become very important for the Democrats, but also for the Republicans. I'm thinking of the state of Nevada, where it could go one way or the other.
We can't predict anything, anything, anything… and we would be wrong to make a prediction today .
This interview has been edited for brevity.