New York, August 20 (IANS) Octogenarian President Joe Biden and the criminally-charged ex-President Donald Trump are locked in an evenly-matched political mortal combat with odds up in the air subject to several scenarios.
RealClear Politics’ (RCP) aggregation of polls shows each of them in the 44 per cent support mark, with Biden ahead by a sliver of 0.4 per cent, well within the margin of error barely 15 months from November 7 next year when US citizens will vote for president.
Logic would dictate that it should be no contest: A candidate charged before four courts with crimes, including conspiring to uproot democracy, should be out.
There are whispers that based on this idea Democrats would like to see Trump become the Republican nominee who could be easily defeated by Biden by an electorate fearful of the return of the mercurial ex-president with his unpredictable and erratic behaviour.
These have been amplified by several on the political right who see a Democratic plot to foist him on the Republican Party through court cases that would move the spotlight away from Biden’s negatives of his performance, age and his son’s questionable business dealings.
More importantly, it would also draw attention from the challengers within the Republican Party like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the principal antagonist, who could mount a more credible contest against Trump within the Party, thus helping Biden.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board that stakes a partisan conservative position unlike the news operation, alleged that Trump’s court cases have the “Democrats elated because they want Mr. Trump to be the Republican nominee. They hope GOP voters will respond to the indictments by nominating Mr. Trump as a form of political retribution”.
There is a precedent for this: In the 2022 mid-term election cycle, Democrats helped Republican extremists defeat moderates in the intraparty elections, the primaries, in hopes they would be easily defeated in the general election with indepdents and moderate Republicans turning their backs on them.
But how this strategy would help Biden is an open question given the current level of polarisation with Trump as the candidate who once boasted, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue (at the centre of New York) and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”.
He leads in his third quest for the Republican Party nomination, with 54.8 per cent support – over 40.5 per cent more than his nearest rival Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, according to RCP aggregation.
On the way to the election, there are five main factors to watch for:
-- The impact of Trump’s possible conviction
-- Biden’s standing based on the state of the economy, the immigration crisis and social issues
-- How sectors of voters like women and other groups view their priorities
-- The emergence of vote-splitters
-- How effective Republicans in Congress can connect to Biden, his scandal-plagued son’s business dealings
A conviction could work either way, strengthen the resolve of his base, which already views the cases against him as political or bleed support away from him, especially among independents.
However, the indictments only appear to have helped him so far.
Biden is viewed unfavourably by 54.7 per cent of those polled, according to RCP aggregation, and 53.8 per cent disapprove of his job performance.
This is largely because of the high inflation -- which is slowly being tamed and may be under control next year -- the immigration crisis and social issues.
They could take a turn for the better and help Biden.
In the mid-term election last year, the Supreme Court’s ruling making abortion laws a state issue leading to some states restricting them helped mobilise women voters, although Republicans recaptured the House of Representatives largely because of crime and the economy.
Women voters and others with narrow interests could impact the election next year.
Biden faces challenges within the Democratic Party from both the left and the libertarian right.
Although they are inconsequential, they could chip away at his image.
With this in mind, some Republicans like former Trump adviser Steve Bannon have egged Robert Kennedy, Jr., on while others are financing his campaign.
More than half the $9.8 million raised by a SuperPAC (Political Action Committee) backing Robert Kennedy, Jr., came from those who had backed Republicans, according to Politico.
The son of Robert Kennedy, an assassinated candidate for Democrat nomination and a nephew of legendary President John Kennedy, he aligns with extreme right-wing opposition to Covid vaccination and with conspiracy theories about the CIA and the government, while also advocating populist economic policies.
According to RCP, he gets 13.2 per cent support among Democrats, while the other candidate, the leftist Marianne Williamson gets 6.2 per cent.
She is a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders of the Democratic Socialists of America, who is aligned with the Democratic Party and has run unsuccessfully for the party’s presidential nomination.
Williamson is the outlet for the angst of the Democratic party's progressives and left who proclaim Biden has betrayed them.
While the two cannot do real damage to Biden, there are two others who could -- African American philosopher, academic and activist Cornel West, who is running for the presidency as a candidate of the Green Party, and the No Labels movement, which threatens to put up a candidate.
West can draw away voters from the Democratic base like African Americans and those disenchanted with the party.
If No Labels, which wants to be a force of “common sense”, bridging the national polarisation, it could be disruptive to Trump and Biden giving those opposed to both a way out.
Finally, there is Vice President Kamala Harris, who is presented by Republicans as the real likely next president if 80-year-old Biden is elected and he becomes infirm.
“A vote for President Biden is a vote for Kamala Harris”, the candidate for the Republican nomination, Nikki Haley, told a Fox News interviewer, hinting at Biden’s age and the truism that the vice president is only a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Harris has an unfavourability rating of 53 per cent and some consider her a liability for Biden given the perception of a lackluster performance.