DANIEL VAUGHAN: Trump Winning Is The 2024 Baseline Expectation

 March 6, 2024

Super Tuesday is over, and aside from Vermont for Trump and American Samoa for Biden, there were no real surprises. The election is set, and we're getting a rematch. Ben Domenech had the best spin on it, "Get ready for the most insane, expensive, exhausting presidential election of your lives."

What's weird about it right now is that the baseline expectation in the press is that Biden will win reelection. Politico leads the way, claiming that Trump has a good position, but there are "potholes" ahead.

The New York Times Editorial Board is more in tune with reality, calling this "a dark moment for Mr. Biden's presidency" and saying that Donald Trump "has a very real chance of retaking the White House."

That's understating the issue. In his analysis, Nate Silver notes this is the first time in the Obama-Biden era (2008-present) that Democrats are genuinely losing in presidential polls. Obama, Clinton, and Biden all enjoyed poll leads over their Republican counterparts. Trump was within a polling error of winning in 2016, which is precisely what happened.

But we can't ignore the baseline expectation now: Trump leads and is tracking to win. Silver writes:

This year, however, Biden is losing to Trump in the polls — not by a huge margin, and not in every single poll, but in the vast majority of recent national surveys. And although it hasn't been talked about as much, Biden generally trails Trump by a wider margin in swing state polling. If you held the election today, it wouldn't be a fait accompli: Biden would be in an analogous position to Trump in 2016, within striking distance in the event of a systematic polling error. But Trump would be favored.

That last point is critical: this is Trump's race to lose. You could not say that about Donald Trump in any race from 2016 to the present. He's at the strongest point of his political career.

American Presidential elections are always good for some shocking surprises along the way. I doubt this one will be any different. But it'd be foolish to think we know how those will go.

Trump's legal cases are out there, for sure. But it's fair to ask how much of the negative stories around Trump are already baked into the equation. These cases dominate the news, and Trump continues to lead Biden. Nothing about those cases changes the reality that is Biden's abysmal first term.

New York Times readers were probably shocked to see the results of the paper's poll. One key result found: "Overall, 40 percent of voters said Mr. Trump's policies had helped them personally, compared with just 18 percent who say the same about Mr. Biden's policies. Instead, 43 percent of voters said Mr. Biden's policies had hurt them, nearly double the share who said the same about Mr. Trump's policies."

Biden can run on "democracy," and how Trump is awful all he wants. The average voter sees Biden as a net negative to their personal lives. Americans are furious over food prices. And while it's hard to call any election a foreign-policy one, it's hard to miss the utter disaster of this administration from Afghanistan through the current conflict in Israel.

The 2020 election was hyper-focused on Trump. Voters could look at Biden, imagine what he'd be like in the White House, and live with that. There's no imaginary version of Biden anymore. He's old, cranky, and has a mile-long list of failures. Do you want more of that for four years?

That's not to say Biden's failures absolve Trump's character and personal issues. But it is to say Trump is playing on an equal playing field this time. Biden is not some guy in a basement with vague concepts of how he'll govern. Biden has lost so many steps that it's unclear if he can even do the Presidential debates at the moment.

In a viral moment, a reporter asked Biden how he would assuage Democratic voter concerns over the polls. Biden exploded at the journalist, claiming that he is winning and has led in the last five polls.

That isn't even remotely true. The last time there were five consecutive polls showing a Biden lead over Trump in national polls was August 2023 -- nearly seven months agoJim Geraghty notes you can't find five consecutive winning polls on the state level or with any other metric.

Is this a sign Biden is just bloviating? Or does he really believe he's in a world where he's leading in the last five polls? Given what the special counsel report said about Biden's memory, it's impossible to tell. He could be a liar or so feeble that he has no idea what the state of the race is.

The general election is here, and Trump is leading. A Trump victory is the baseline expectation. Can that change? Indeed, polls could be wrong. But the evidence we have right now says Biden is losing and losing badly. At some point, the press will realize that, and that's when the true meltdown will begin.

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