Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Trump’s two indictments will likely throw the 2024 election to Joe Biden.
Assuming Biden remains in good health and there isn’t a dramatic foreign policy reversal or a prolonged economic crisis, he is now a shoo-in. He may be a shoo-in no matter what, since the alternative will be so unpalatable to so many Americans.
Trump will probably go on trial in Florida for his theft of top secret documents before the end of 2023, since that district of Florida is known as the “rocket docket” and defendants are usually tried within six months of their indictment. It is expected to be a three-week trial.
Then in March, 2024, Trump’s trial in Manhattan will begin, on charges of election interference arising from his pay-offs to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal to cover up his affairs with those women.
It could be argued that Trump may escape conviction in these two cases. This is possible, but the impression created for the public by the porn star case in particular will be difficult for him to escape, even so.
It could be further argued that Trump’s hold on the Republican Party is such that he will win the primaries anyway, especially since he has succeeded in convincing so many of his base of conspiracy theories about the FBI, etc.
This is possible. However, it is likely that the trials will deeply damage him as a presidential candidate in the general election among independents in key swing states– Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania. Michigan is now trending Democratic, as are Minnesota and Pennsylvania. The striking down of Roe v. Wade has galvanized the women’s and youths’ vote in Wisconsin. Georgia and Arizona are purple.
It is the independents and the suburbs in those states that really determine the outcome. We know California and New York will be blue, and we know Texas and Alabama will be red. Bill Barr told Trump he would lose in 2020 “because the suburbs think you’re an asshole.” The strong impression of assholery will be rather reinforced for the suburbs and independents by the salacious details of the Stormy Daniel affair and by the sordid goings-on at Mar-a-Lago with top secret nuclear secrets.
Even before the indictments, it was likely that Biden would prevail again, but it now seems to me that the margins in the swing states will be even greater for the Democratic standard-bearer. By the election year of 2024, many of the positive effects on the economy of the Infrastructure and Inflation Reduction Acts will be in full flower. And the public will have been exposed to weeks of Trump trials.
Now it could be argued that Trump will be so damaged by the trials that he will lose the Republican primary. This is possible but not very likely. Still, that development would not improve the Republicans’ odds of taking the White House.
One thing we know for sure about Trump is that he is a man of idées fixes. One of his obsessions is being president again. So if he is defeated by a Ron DeSantis, he will run as a third party candidate, drawing votes away from the Republican standard-bearer in the general election.
Biden wins under that scenario, too.
The big question is whether Trump or his GOP rival will be reduced to a Barry Goldwater figure by 2024 so that Biden not only wins a second term but also gets a big majority in the Senate and the House. The Supreme Court may just have handed Democrats a majority in the House by striking down anti-Black gerrymandering. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision allowing abortion bans will likely continue to rally women and young people to vote, and to vote Democratic. With a mortally wounded Republican candidate or a right-wing third-party bid, the GOP could face a Democratic landslide reminiscent of 1964 or 2008.
Life is unpredictable and, as I admitted above, some disaster could intervene to forestall the scenario I just sketched out. But all other things being equal, I think this chain of events is now more likely than not. It would be good news for the planet, since the Democrats are increasingly committed to battling human-caused climate change by greening our energy and other high-carbon sectors. It would only be good news in the long term, however, if they can not only defeat Trump but defeat Trumpism.