Will ‘double haters’ determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential election?

(Uncredited / Associated Press)

Will ‘double haters’ determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential election?

Doyle McManus

January 29, 2024

The general election campaign between President Biden and former President Trump, the rematch that almost no one wanted, started earlier than planned last week.

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is still contesting the Republican nomination, but she will actually need a miracle, more than one miracle, to dethrone Trump.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel declared the former president her party’s presumptive nominee, even though only two states have actually voted in caucuses or primaries.

In practice, Biden and Trump are campaigning against each other as if Haley is already gone.

This indecently early start isn’t the only factor that makes this election unusual:

It has been 112 years since a sitting president and a former president met in a rematch. Never in modern history have two candidates become so unpopular against each other (although the battle between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton came close in 2016). And never before have the presumed nominees been so old; Biden is 81, Trump wants to turn 78 in June.

The fact that you have two

[candidates who’ve been president],involved parties,

Neither is well-liked, making it a unique situation, said Democratic pollster and strategist Mark Mellman.

When an incumbent president runs for a second term, the elections are normally a referendum on his record.

But this will be a double referendum, as both candidates have recent records to defend.

According to a recent Gallup poll, Biden is viewed unfavorably by 58% of Americans and Trump by 57%.

Many voters will choose by deciding which unsavory candidate to vote against, not which champion to vote for.

That’s especially true for one important subgroup: the roughly 15% of Americans who dislike both candidates, often called double haters.

The double haters helped determine the outcome in both 2016, when most of them chose Trump over Clinton, and in 2020, when most abandoned Trump for Biden.

The combination of a double referendum and double unpopularity guarantees that this will be one of the most negative campaigns in history.

Both parties want to turn the elections into a referendum on the other candidate. That will make the campaign negative, Mellman noted.

Column: Is age actually just a number? Not when it comes to Biden and Trump

It has already started.

Trump’s message focused on the damage he believes Biden has done to the country: high inflation, rising undocumented immigration, rising crime. (Inflation is declining, the economy is growing, and FBI statistics show crime is declining, but that hasn’t stopped the former president from repeating his claims.)

Biden’s message focused on the damage he said a second Trump presidency would do: the erosion of democracy, tighter restrictions on abortion, greater economic inequality.

Neither has presented much of a positive vision. Both campaigns focus on fear, not hope.

This could be the most depressing nine months ever in terms of public debate, Republican pollster David Winston predicted.

Here’s what the two candidates need to do to win, according to strategists from both parties:

Trump’s team must keep the focus and pressure on Biden to turn the election into a referendum on his record, Mellman said. They also have to reassure people about Trump’s mistakes and weaknesses, which is difficult because Trump constantly reminds people of his mistakes.

Republican strategists say Trump should spend less time complaining about the 2020 election, which he falsely claims was stolen. These grievances mobilize Trump’s already loyal supporters, but they alienate the moderate voters and double-haters who will decide the election.

Biden, meanwhile, needs to do two big things, Mellman said. One is to communicate more effectively about what he has accomplished, because people are largely unaware of what he has done.

These four questions will decide who wins Biden vs. Trump Part II

Second, he must make clear the disadvantages of choosing Trump. Yes, it’s about democracy, but it’s about much more than that.

Biden opened up about that priority last week when he spoke at an abortion rights rally in Virginia.

Aides say the president also plans to lay out a positive agenda for a second term in his State of the Union address on March 7.

Question No. 1 is: How is someone who doesn’t like both candidates going to choose? said Winston. They want to hear candidates talk about solutions to problems. They don’t want to hear a battle of grievances.

Polls show that if the election were held tomorrow, Trump would win a narrow popular vote victory.

But nine months before Election Day, those polls are not reliable predictions. A lot can change between now and November.

If the economy continues to improve, that should help Biden. If Trump is convicted in any of the criminal trials he faces, that could help Biden, too. International crises can cut both ways.

Third-party candidates, including Robert F, Kennedy Jr., Green Party candidate Jill Stein and the wildcard organization No Labels, were able to draw votes from both candidates.

Another wildcard: the health of the older candidates. A major medical event on either side could tip the election.

However uninspired the campaign may be, the stakes remain enormous.

Biden and Trump offer starkly contrasting visions of the future: an old-fashioned Democrat who has gradually moved to the left, and an autocratic Republican populist who says he will use the presidency to persecute his opponents.

And the outcome remains unpredictable. This month’s polls cannot predict how voters will feel in November.

So don’t believe anyone who claims to know how things will turn out. They do not.


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