Q&A of the Day – Could Trump Beat Biden in a Rematch?

Q&A of the Day – Could Trump Beat Biden in a Rematch? 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.   

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com  

Social: @brianmuddradio 

iHeartRadio: Use the Talkback feature – the microphone button on our station’s page in the iHeart app.    

Today’s Entry: Hi Brian, I enjoy the show and analysis however you’ve said something that strikes me as odd and likely off base. You said President Biden is starting his campaign as an underdog to the eventual GOP nominee. Given that Trump is currently the leader and heavy favorite for the nomination, how can you justify that statement? Not only did Biden already beat Trump, how many people who didn’t like Trump in 2020 will suddenly vote for him once again? What you said might usually be true but if Trump is the Republican nominee I think you’re probably wrong.  

Bottom Line: I appreciate this note because it allows me an opportunity to illustrate the view of the possible. While obviously none of us know what will happen in the 2024 Presidential election, my statement yesterday stating that President Biden has started his re-election bid with the eventual Republican nominee being the current favorite is entirely defensible and explainable. That's true regardless of whom the eventual nominee will be – including Donald Trump. As I mentioned, Joe Biden has a lower approval rating at this point in his presidency than any president who has ever won re-election. While that’s part of the basis for my sentiment and historical analysis, it’s also just the jumping off point. Yes, a generic ballot Republican would be the favorite today. But of course, generic ballot candidates don’t exist and it’s safe to say there’s no possible Republican candidate who could be “less generic” with more concrete opinions by Americans than Donald Trump. That actually makes it easier to illustrate why Trump should currently be considered the favorite.  

At the onset of the analysis, I’ll start with the easy, surface level comparison. One need look no further to potentially make the case that Trump is potentially better positioned to win than three years ago than the hypothetical head-to-head polls. In a current average of head-to-head 2024 polls Donald Trump shows a 1.3% lead over Joe Biden. On Election Day 2020 those same polls showed Joe Biden with a 7.2% advantage over Trump. Now, do hypothetical polls 18-months in advance of an election mean much? No. But what it does illustrate is that while most voters have firm opinions about both Biden and Trump – to the extent opinions have changed since 2020, in a race between the two – it's been significantly in Trump’s favor. The mood of the vote moving in Trump’s direction by 8.5% over Election Day 2020 is a significant indicator that there are many, largely independent voters, who have buyer’s remorse over their vote back then. But again, while interesting that’s surface level material. Elections are of course won in individual states, not with the national popular vote which national head-to-head stuff theoretically reflects.  

The analysis with Trump gives us so much to work with because he has won a presidential election. A lot’s changed in the electorate since 2016 to be sure and will continue to evolve over the next year and a half, however knowing that the changes since 2020 have been in Trump’s favor presents an opportunity for us to credibly evaluate the states Trump won in 2016 that Biden won in 2020 specifically. Here’s president Biden’s approval rating in each one of these states currently: 

  • Arizona: 36% 
  • Georgia: 36% 
  • Michigan: 40% 
  • Pennsylvania: 38% 
  • Wisconsin: 43% 

President Biden has significant net disapproval in each of these critical swing states. And importantly his approval rating is below the national average in three of them – Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Never in American history has an incumbent president won a state with an approval rating in the 30% range on Election Day. If Trump were to win back only those three states along with carrying the states he won in 2020 he’d win the 2024 presidential election. That doesn’t even take into account Nevada, which Trump lost in both elections but where Biden only retains a 39% approval rating currently. In other words, current data suggests that Trump would not only be the favorite to win the election today, but that he has the potential to expand the map beyond the states he won in 2016. And the point of the more granular demonstration to evidence the point brings me to this. While none of us know what will happen in 18 months, here’s what we do know based on my illustration. A) Biden has lost voters to Trump since 2020 as of today B) Trump would likely beat Biden today. My final point is this... Joe Biden’s approval rating with Independents is 28% approval to 60% disapproval. Nobody wins elections with numbers like that. Because when you’re losing potentially persuadable voters by greater than 2 to 1, you’re losing every potentially close election that takes place. And Trump or whomever the challenger would be wouldn’t necessarily need them to flip their votes to them, provided that many who voted for Biden once wouldn’t do so again. Which, by the way I think would be likely to happen in a head-to-head rematch between the two. Lower turnout than 2020 to the benefit of Donald Trump.  

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