The 2024 US presidential election race is already under way. In recent polls, President Joe Biden is the clear favourite among Democrats for the 2024 nomination. No one else comes close, with Vice-President Kamala Harris a distant second, some twenty points behind.
Biden is the only candidate who would preserve the coalition that he built during the last two and a half years. He has managed to construct a base support of young voters, suburban voters, as well as maintaining the share of Hillary Clinton’s support among Black and Hispanic voters.
With his recent announcement that he will veto any legislation that attempts to end social security or Medicare, Biden has made himself a champion of senior voters. This influential voting block has over recent years, been a cornerstone of the Republican base.
If Biden can gain votes from senior voters, he will establish a bipartisan coalition that would be difficult to beat.
The Republican party race is wide open. Former president Donald Trump has already announced his bid to be the Republican party’s presidential nominee for the third time in 2024. Speculation has already begun as to who might oppose Trump for the Republican candidacy.
Many pundits have tipped Florida governor Ron DeSantis to be Trump’s main opponent in the primaries next year.
In their latest head-to-head figures, polling organisation, FiveThirtyEight, gives Biden an even chance against DeSantis, and gives Biden a three-point lead against Trump. With inflation on the decline in the US, and the jobs market booming, those ratings should become more favourable for Biden.
Polls show concerns about Biden’s age. One suggested that just 23% of Democrats under the age of 45 want Biden to run for a second term at 82.
However, only 462 Democrats were surveyed, and the poll was conducted before Biden’s well-received State of the Union address, although his popularity has reportedly failed to gain a bump in the polls.
Other reports suggest that there is a split between the opinions of rank-and-file Democrats and party leaders over Biden.
Yet, according to one analyst, data indicates that it is in the Democrats best interests to support Biden. The Democrats long-term influence, according to Allan J. Lichtman’s Thirteen Keys to the White House theory, depends on Biden running for a second term.
Lichtman’s 13 keys are a checklist of true or false statements of which only five can be false if Biden wants to be re-elected. In the current climate, four of Lichman’s keys could be argued to be false – midterm gains in Congress, no scandal (classified documents have been found in Biden’s home in Wilmington), foreign or military success (not looking likely in Ukraine) and a charismatic incumbent.
After Republican gains in the midterms, the developing Chinese spy balloon crisis, no victory likely in Ukraine, and negative opinion polls for Biden (which some might see as evidence of a lack of charisma). Democrats can only afford one more false statement – either an economy in decline for Biden to not run again, according to Litchman.
If Democrats have any intention of pushing forward with progressive domestic legislation, then it is more likely to be passed in a president’s second term than first.
Research has indicated that presidents are less effective with foreign policy in their second term because their diplomatic promises have less weight, and so focus tends to revert to domestic issues.
Domestic policies affect the electorate directly and so can have a detrimental effect on potential re-election. As no third term is available because of the 22nd amendment, presidents are more willing to address domestic issues during their second term.
After outperforming expectations in last November’s midterms, Democrats will be hopeful of regaining a majority in the House and establishing a clear majority in the Senate.
Such a situation would allow the liberal wing of the Democrats to push forward socially progressive bills that promote a green agenda, protect reproductive rights and voting rights, and counter the threat of a conservative supreme court.
Even without a clear majority in both the House and Senate, a second Biden term could benefit the US. The partisan divide has hamstrung US politics in recent years and instances of bipartisan collaboration have been few and far between.
Of all the contenders for the White House, none of the others has the experience or capability to reach across the political divide as effectively as Biden.
Before the 2020 Democratic nomination campaign, Biden was criticised by Democrats for his willingness to put political differences aside to get work done in Congress.
Of course, the bipartisan legislature requires the Republicans to work with Biden. He stated in the State of the Union address that his presidency illustrated the benefits of cross-party partnerships.
Biden claimed that 300 laws he had signed were the result of bipartisan efforts. “If we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress,” he told Republicans.
A second Biden term might lead to increased bipartisan cooperation and close some of the nation’s political divide, at least in Congress. But to do this, Biden’s presidency would not be the exception and not the norm.
Political scientist Stephen Skowronek’s work shows how long-term political changes in the US are based on shared beliefs that weaken over time and are then replaced by new political cycles.
In Skowronek’s theory, presidents including Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan created a new political cycle, one that changes attitudes and policies for a generation.
Big achievements happen in two terms
At the start of his first term, commentator Michelle Goldberg believed that Biden might be the first president since Reagan to be able to lead a new cycle.
Before the 2020 election, Skowronek thought that Biden was too moderate to be a president that had long-term influence and create that kind of significant change.
But the COVID and economic crises , racial division, and major political shifts – indicated by recent electoral success of policies that build toward a more equitable economy and social democracy – have provided Biden with an opportunity to create a new political cycle, one could heavily influence those who come after him.
If he can gain bipartisan support, in the same way that Franklin D. Roosevelt did in creating the New Deal era of the 1930s, Biden can make significant changes that will have long term implications beyond his second term.