The prospect of a White House rematch between President Biden and former President Trump is coming into focus. And there’s nothing that backers of either man would like more.
“If the election were held today, Trump would win by 6 points,” enthused Corey Lewandowski, the Trump ally who served as the former president’s campaign manager in the early stages of the 2016 election cycle.
Asked about other plausible Democratic nominees should Biden decide not to seek a second term, Lewandowski insisted “Joe Biden would be my first choice” as an opponent.
On the other side of the equation, Democrat Dick Harpootlian, who served on Biden’s 2020 campaign finance committee, said, “I am praying for Donald Trump to be the nominee … Trump represents the worst aspects of the Republican Party and I am convinced that absence will not make the heart grow fonder.”
Harpootlian, a longtime fixture of South Carolina politics known for his colorful turns of phrase, gleefully branded the former president “crazy as a shithouse rat.”
Biden and Trump journeyed to key states Friday, giving a split-screen preview of what a 2024 campaign would look like.
Biden made the case for his manufacturing agenda in Ohio, a historical bellwether state that has trended sharply Republican in recent years.
Trump held a rally in Pennsylvania in support of TV personality Mehmet Oz, whom the former president has endorsed in the U.S. Senate primary in the Keystone State.
Trump and Oz were joined onstage by J.D. Vance, the author catapulted to victory in Ohio’s GOP Senate primary three days previously by Trump’s April endorsement. Vance had been trailing in third place in the polls until the former president backed him.
Plenty of Americans will recoil from the idea of a Biden-Trump rematch.
They will remember the public tensions that spiraled during the 2020 campaign, chaotic presidential debates and the protests sparked by Trump’s false claims of election fraud that reached their nadir with the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
Looking ahead, the nation also confronts the possibility of a 2024 contest in which the younger of the two candidates, Trump, would be 78 on Election Day. Biden would be 81 by then.
Still, voters who blanch at the idea of a Biden-Trump rematch face the same question that fixates Washington insiders: Who else but Biden and Trump are realistically likely to be their party nominees?
Biden gives every appearance of wanting to run for a second term.
If he goes ahead, it would be near-inconceivable that Vice President Harris would challenge him. Harris’s road to the White House either involves a fork in the road where Biden doesn’t seek a second term or a timeline that doesn’t put her at the top of the ticket until 2028.
Biden could face a challenge from the left, but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has tried and failed twice to win the presidency and will turn 81 this year. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has appeared to rule out a 2024 White House bid.
On the Republican side, Trump has once again defied the odds, failing to be relegated to the margins of American public life as many critics thought he would be after the Capitol riot. Eighty-one percent of Republican voters have a favorable view of Trump, according to an Economist-YouGov poll earlier this week.
Even Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump after both of his impeachments, said this week that the former president would “very likely” be the GOP nominee if he runs in 2024.
Further fueling the prospect of a return bout between the two men is the idea, pushed by partisans on either side, that each one is particularly well suited to the fight against the other.
Democratic strategist Joel Payne argued that “if you have Trump’s chaos injected into a race, the comfort and ease of Joe Biden seems to be a pretty good antidote.”
Trump allies believe that Biden will be weaker when he has to defend his own record in office. They also point to what they perceive to be a lack of vigor on the part of the incumbent president.
Lewandowski predicted that, as the next election appears on the horizon, “when the average American goes back to the central question of ‘Am I better off today than I was four years ago?’, by every single metric the answer is ‘No.’ ”
To be sure, much could change between now and 2024. Biden or Trump could decide not to even contest the presidency. And, if they do go forward, they face real challenges.
In the FiveThirtyEight polling average on Friday, Biden’s job performance won the approval of 42 percent of Americans but the disapproval of 52 percent.
The Economist-YouGov poll indicated that 40 percent of adults held a favorable view of Trump while 55 percent held an unfavorable view.
But it’s hard right now to imagine either Biden or Trump stepping away from the fight.
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.