The 2024 US presidential election is now less than a year away No election since the 1860 election that resulted in the secession of the South is as consequential as this election Given Americans cannot be any more polarized, this election will test the resilience of American democracy and the political maturity of American voters. Who is going to win? What will it mean? What could go wrong?
.... The phrase “it’s the economy, stupid" was coined by James Carville, Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist in the 1992 presidential election, to convey the over-riding importance of the economy for US presidential elections By the logic of what has since become a received wisdom in American politics, the 2024 election should be a slam dunk for Joe Biden who is seeking re-election. This is because by most metrics the US economy is doing well. US GDP grew nearly 5% in the third quarter, the fastest among major economies. (Chart 1) The Biden campaign likes to remind us that the US economy has added 14 million jobs since Biden took office. The unemployment rate, at 3.9%, has been below 4% for 21 months. (Chart 2) Americans are also wealthier, at least on paper. Household net worth has gone up 20 trillion dollars over the past 3 years. (Chart 3) Despite these results, the American people apparently is not impressed, though Consumer confidence has recovered somewhat over the past year, but it is still quite a bit lower than where it was at Biden’s inauguration. (Chart 4) Indeed, it is not too far from the low of the past 20 years. How do we explain this divergence between consumer confidence and economic data? Are Americans so blind and so spoiled that they can’t see how good they have it? ..... There is a perfect explanation for the unhappiness of Americans with respect to their economic situation. The real earnings of American households, meaning their earnings after inflation, are lower today than where they were when Biden took office. (Chart 5) This is the most damning detail of Biden’s economic policy record. The challenge this poses for the Biden re-election campaign is that there is no spin that can mitigate the voters’ perception of this economic reality. This is because they are reminded of it by what’s left in their bank accounts at the end of every month. Many Americans are so cash strapped that they are tapping their credit cards and their retirement plans to make it through the month Of course, not all of the surge in the cost of living of the past 3 years can be blamed on Biden The disruption of the global supply chain during the lockdowns was clearly outside his control However, there is no denying that Biden’s policies made things worse His stimulus packages exacerbated the inflation shock from the pandemic His roller coaster energy policy exacerbated the inflation shock from the Ukraine war If Americans are not giving him any credit for the stimulus he showered on them, it is because it made them actually poorer A new survey by bankrate.com found that 50% of Americans see their financial situation as being worse now than it was before the start of the Biden administration, including 31 percent of Democrats 45% of the survey respondents blame Biden for their worsening financial situation. (Chart 6) This includes 72% of Republicans, 53% of Independents and 20% of Democrats. The decisive factor behind Biden’s victory over Trump in 2020 was the 10-point margin of the share of votes from Independents that he received. The fact that Independents care much more about the economy than Democrats, and half of Independents think Biden is responsible for why their financial situation is not better bodes poorly for Biden’s re-election prospect. ......
While Biden struggles, Trump is gaining momentum. With the Iowa caucuses only two months away, Trump is now leading the Republican field by more than 40%. (Chart 7) Trump’s lead over the other Republican presidential candidates is so huge that this week Ron DeSantis’ biggest donor decided to switch support to Trump. I suspect he won’t be the last. Meanwhile, Trump has moved ahead of Biden in a hypothetical matchup and is leading him by an average of 1 point (Chart 8) Why is Trump doing so well when he faces 91 felony chargers in four separate criminal cases? The results of a new New York Times – Siena College poll of the 6 battleground states provide important clues about American voters’ state of mind right now. In terms of favorability rating, the new poll has Trump and Biden more or less tied Where the big difference between the two emerges is when the survey respondents were asked whether they trust Biden or Trump to do a better job as president. On the economy, 59% of the respondents say Trump will do a better job versus only 37% who say Biden will do a better job (Chart 9) On immigration, 53% of the respondents say Trump will do a better job versus only 41% who say Biden will do a better job On national security, 53% of the respondents say Trump will do a better job versus only 41% who say Biden will do a better job Biden leads Trump on abortion by 49 to 40 He also leads Trump on democracy, but only slightly, by 48 to 45% We all know Trump brings out extreme feelings in people. But what these results tell me is that once people put their feelings aside, they trust Trump more than Biden when it comes to the biggest issues facing the country right now. What it means is that American voters, having had three years to reflect on what Trump did during his presidency, are reassessing their opinion of him, or at least his competency. The fact is that real wages during Trump’s presidency grew at the fastest rate in two decades. (Chart 10) The fact is that Trump was the first president since Carter who did not start a new war or was involved in escalating or starting a new military operation Perhaps these facts are finally dawning on Americans. The New York Times – Siena College poll shows Trump beating Biden in 5 of the 6 battleground states by an average margin of 5 points. (Chart 11). Trump lost in all 6 states in 2020 (albeit narrowly). If he wins just 3 of these states, he will be the next president of the United states.
The Democrats are getting nervous but it may too late to start changing horses.
.... A major narrative in American mainstream media over the past 3 years is that Trump poses a grave danger to America and American democracy. But the New York Times – Siena College poll shows that only 36% of registered voters in the 6 battleground states say Trump is a “unique threat” to democracy. Another constant narrative in the American media is that Trump is racist. But the new poll shows that 22% of blacks and 42% of Hispanics in the 6 battleground states intend to vote for Trump. These are record numbers for Republican presidential candidates.
These all point to the diminishing influence of mainstream media and propaganda has over public opinion Call me an optimist, but to me this is a sign of political maturity and progress, when reality trumps ideology and narratives. If Americans judge and choose their politicians based solely on the results that they deliver, then there is still hope for America.
If there is hope for America, there is hope for the world.