Ever since Donald Trump’s Presidential run in 2016, he never truly stopped campaigning. Indeed, he filed the paperwork to seek re-election merely five hours after he was sworn into office. After such a vigorous campaign, to some it was surprising how much the 2020 election appeared to shift against Trump. Now over a year on from his defeat, many will be wondering if Trump has any chance of winning in 2024, as to most it seems only a matter of time before he announces his candidacy. Even some of Trump’s key competitors have vowed not to run if he does. Perhaps the Republican party is no more, and it is simply the party of Trump? To assess these important issues, we must reflect on what went wrong for Trump in 2020.
One clear reason for Trump’s 2020 election defeat was the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been suggested that that the US could have averted 40 per cent of its 400,000 recorded Covid-19 deaths under his Presidency. Trump’s inability to contain Covid-19, due to convoluted Covid-19 policies, damaged the US’s international standing and his own election prospects. This was clearly reflected in opinion polling, which showed a net -22 per cent approval in October 2020.
Previously, Trump’s approval rating had been boosted by a strong economy, which was net positive until the pandemic. No other President had such a massive difference between their overall net approval rating and economic net approval rating. Subsequently, when the economy collapsed under the Covid restrictions, this led to voters abandoning Trump after the one central issue that they had supported him on backfired dramatically.
Additionally, Trump rejected much of the scientific advice given to him, including mask wearing, and advocated at best ineffectual and at worst dangerous Covid treatments. On the contrary, Joe Biden’s campaign revolved around following “bedrock science”. Biden promoted policies such as mandatory mask wearing, increased testing, and listening intently to ‘the science’. In short, the black swan event of Covid played into the hands of the Biden campaign, costing Trump dearly.
Trump’s character was also a significant factor in contributing to his loss. In fact, some would say that a core reason for his loss was an “anyone but Trump” attitude. Many voters just wanted a ‘conventional’ President. In 2016, Trump appealed because of the fact that he was an unconventional political outsider. People were fed up with the current system and were willing to look for an alternative. By 2020, this dynamic had reversed – hindering rather than helping his campaign. Specifically, his often crass manner pushed swing voters away from him. For these reasons, Trump retained most of his 2016 voters, but unlike Biden, he failed to convince many new voters.
In light of the above, Trump has several strategies he could pursue in 2024. First, he has to avoid being prevented from running. The impeachment trial ended in acquittal, meaning Trump was not banned from holding any further public office. However, the Fourteenth Amendment directly mentions that no person can hold office if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” – something which many Democrats and other political opponents continue to claim he has done. How this will play out is still unclear but presuming that Trump can run he has a very real chance of winning in 2024.
Crucially, it should be relatively easy for Trump to retain the Republican nomination, with 80 per cent of Republicans wanting him to run. The Republican party does still appear to have an infatuation with Trumpism. Yet, most see the biggest factor aiding a Trump 2024 victory as his potential opponent. Biden’s dwindling approval rating and questions around his capability for the role surely make a 2024 re-nomination unfeasible. Moreover, the Biden administration’s policies and their implementation have at times bordered on disastrous.
There have already been some monumental problems for Biden, including Covid, the economy, and Afghanistan. Hence, a more likely opponent for Trump is Kamala Harris. However, even this is not a promising option for the Democrats as Trump’s popularity far outpaces the current Vice President’s. Biden’s lacklustre presidency and the lack of a credible candidate from the Democrats greatly increases the likelihood that Trump will once again be President.
Last, Trump’s 2024 strategy should focus on further expanding his vote share among minority populations – a trend that was already underway in 2020 – this would enable Trump to access new voters and garner appeal from the ‘middle ground’. If Trump is able to carry out these strategies, it is clear that he has a very good chance of winning in 2024.
Trump made several campaign and policy blunders in 2020, chiefly around the pandemic. This ultimately cost him a second consecutive term. But now with much of the Republican party behind him and growing troubles for the Democrats, a second non-consecutive Trump term appears increasingly plausible.