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If the presidential election were held today… (thinking ahead)

If You Ask Me

How many times have you read a political prognostication that begins with the words, “If the election were held today?”

The words introduce an analysis of what would happen if a highly anticipated election were held, not on its legal date a year or two or three from now, but today. Its dubious purpose is to convince people the writer has an idea what will happen when the real election is held.

I mention the old, “if the election” caveat, because I am about to commit the same crime and offer a speculation on an election three years and a day from now — on Nov. 5, 2024 to be precise.

However, my words come with a warning on the label that any relationship between this prognosis and what will really happen on that date is purely coincidental.

But before we try to determine who will win the next presidential election, we’ll take a shot at a much easier prediction — the outcome of the congressional midterm elections next year, which will have something to say about what happens in 2024.

With history as a guide, predicting midterm outcomes isn’t very difficult. Go back nearly a century and it’s hard to find a midterm election in which the voters didn’t turn against the party in power — even when they liked the president they had put there.

President Joseph R. Biden, though, doesn’t come close to enjoying that valuable distinction at the present time, according to the polls.

Referring to the Biden Democratic Party as “the party in power” is, in fact, something of a stretch. You may have noticed that the Democratic Party holds onto the House by just a few votes and controls the Senate with a tie that functions primarily when the vote is on an unimportant issue.

So if the midterms were held today instead of the first Tuesday of next November, it’s a good bet that the Democrats will lose control of both houses. This will be a significant blow to the Biden presidency and also to the no longer important Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, as they quickly become merely two of 100.

For all this to really happen depends to some extent on the course of two epidemics, COVID-19 and inflation. If we have a failing economy and voters continue to get sick and die in the next 12 months, the likelihood of the party in power losing it all becomes a certainty. Please let me know if this doesn’t work out.

Which brings us to the 2024 presidential election three years from now and two years from those midterms.

If the presidential election were held today, it would be between two old men, the 82-year-old Joe Biden and the 78-year-old Donald Trump. Unless you paid no attention at all, you will recall that Trump very emphatically questioned the mental agility of a 78-year-old president in 2020, which was Biden’s age then and will be Trump’s in 2024. Funny how those things catch up with you.

Of course, the presidential election isn’t being held today and Biden’s running again is not a sure thing. Neither is Trump’s.

There’s a reason you don’t often find octogenerians in positions of great power in this country, except in the Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidency. The private sector knows better.

But it is still not unreasonable to envision an aging Biden  stepping aside at 82 in favor of his vice president, Kamala Harris. She, however, is currently best known as Biden’s czar of the immigration crisis who has done nothing about that immigration crisis.

And so, if the election were held today, we couldn’t be as confident as prognosticators normally are that the incumbent would be running or even if his preferred successor would be viable.

We do know that Donald Trump wants to be president again but we don’t know if he, like Biden, will be physically or mentally able to pursue the office. Ranting and raving over some fancied wrong every day for the next three years and a day can take its toll. Also, with Trump, there’s always the possibility he will be destroyed by past or future sins or even if he will be in jail for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection or for a lifetime of financial transgressions.

But we also know that, as of today, the vast majority of Republicans — eight in 10 in the latest Quinnipiac poll — want him to run again. Why so many want the man who lost the presidency and Congress as their candidate for a third time isn’t at all clear but they do.

According to Axios, the well informed source of political news, Trump considers his main rivals for the nomination to be Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Vice President Mike Pence.

Given the polls, DeSantis and Pompeo might not have the guts to challenge Trump and may well join Nikki Haley, the best female Republican candidate so far, in deferring to Donald.

Pence, however, has shown no inclination to bow to the wishes of Trump and may turn out to be a presidential candidate every bit as compelling as that other vice president, Kamala Harris.

Having digested this much speculation and pondering so many unknowns, you may have concluded — as I have — that there is no way of knowing what is going to happen in the 2024 election or even who is going to be competing in it. We should, however, be grateful that the election isn’t being held today.

 

Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at rahles1@outlook.com.

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