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Larry Donnelly Make no mistake - Joe Biden is in deep trouble

Our columnist says Trump was not expected to keep gaining and Biden has a fight ahead for support in key battlegrounds.

SUPER TUESDAY 2024 is in the history books. The races for the Republican and Democratic nominations to be the 47th President of the United States are also finished. It has been a thoroughly boring affair thus far.

President Joe Biden delivered a competent, notably combative State of the Union address on Thursday. 48 hours earlier, he crushed his weak primary opponents, self-help guru Marianne Williamson and Congressman Dean Philips. They failed to win a single delegate between them.

Interestingly for us political nerds who love election footnotes, the sole blemish for the proud son of Mayo and Louth was the tiny territory of American Samoa. Canvassing online from the continental US and pledging to be an advocate for the remote island’s roughly 45,000 residents, unknown Jason Palmer prevailed by 11 votes, 51-40. There will be three Palmer delegates on the Democratic National Convention floor in Chicago this summer.

Trump on the march

Meanwhile, Donald Trump continued his march to triumph, beating Nikki Haley, the ex-South Carolina governor he appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations, in 14 out of 15 states where the GOP faithful had their say. Haley dropped out on Wednesday. She has not endorsed Trump. This is unsurprising, given that he frequently referred to her as “Birdbrain” on the campaign trail. Instead, the 51-year-old Indian American asks him to earn the support of the conservatives and independents who rallied to her corner.

According to a series of remarkably consistent surveys, a sizeable majority of Americans wish these two elderly men were not seeking the most powerful job in the world. Where does each stand today, with 5 November, the date anxious observers await, looming in the not too distant future?

There seem to be two conflicting narratives with respect to Trump. The first is that abundant warning signs can be found in his objectively good showing this week. Although she was a dead duck politically, not insignificant minorities in most states went for Nikki Haley over the quasi-incumbent, presumptive nominee.

With nothing to lose, Haley sharpened her attacks on the frontrunner and was championed by “never Trump” Republicans. Based on exit polling, left-leaning analysts opine that a large swathe of them will not cast ballots for the man they loathe under any circumstances. Their gravitating to Biden or to third-party aspirants – or their abstaining because they see no palatable alternative – militates strongly against the chances of Trump returning to the White House, as do his legal problems.

The second is that, critics be damned, the bombastic billionaire facing 91 felony charges is well-placed to make an extraordinary comeback. This school of thought is a lot more compelling in my estimation, at least at the moment, for the following reasons.

Trump has already defied expectations and the odds. There are precious few pundits who predicted that he would be the GOP’s standard bearer in the wake of what transpired on January 6th, 2021. It was virtually inconceivable that right wingers, including those who had regarded the former reality TV star positively, would stick with him. They would not forgive his role in what was arguably an insurrection and undeniably a sad day for the country. Yet here he is.

Biden’s problems

Additionally, there is a false presumption that nearly all Republican primary voters who preferred Haley hate Trump and will not be with him in November. But the fact is that many of them are committed conservatives. If they don’t opt for Trump, Joe Biden could get a second term. They believe him to be too old, in rapid cognitive decline and a wholly owned captive of his party’s hard left. The idea of his re-election terrifies them.

There is data suggesting that a cadre of Haley’s people simply cannot bring themselves to row in behind an individual about whom they harbour big doubts. That said, it is crucial to remember that some of those whose dissenting voices are being amplified are Democrats or liberal-minded independents who eschewed participating in the Biden coronation in order to have a go at Trump. Further, it is common for embittered adherents of a defeated candidate in a primary to say they won’t stay within the tent when nerves are frayed in the immediate aftermath.

It is probable that most in this latter category will ultimately fall in line and, even if they have to hold their noses, walk the same path as retiring US Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. The influential fixture on Capitol Hill for decades despises Trump and hasn’t talked to him in ages. This week, McConnell nonetheless announced his endorsement of the man who years ago seized actual control of their party.

There are two relatively unusual factors that likewise augur in Trump’s favour and should offset the aforementioned antipathy to him in certain quarters. One is that – owing to widespread disapproval of both nominees – there are prominent third-party hopefuls who, the evidence indicates, will wound Biden, perhaps fatally, in battleground states. Robert F Kennedy Jr, African American Cornell West and Jill Stein of the Greens will appeal to disenchanted women and men who typically, albeit unenthusiastically, choose Democrats as the lesser of two evils.

Another is the massive surge of Latino Americans toward Trump and the Republicans generally. This trend, which is not new, is still insufficiently reported on and examined by the media. It could be decisive, however. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll reveals that a frankly astounding 46% of Latinos, a swiftly expanding constituency, are with Trump. Democratic operatives are also worried about a similar drift of Black males and Asian Americans.

Lastly, politics is a numbers game. So now consider the numbers., which aggregates polls to account for outliers, has Trump in front of Biden by 3.6% + in five key states – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina – of the seven that will decide the victor. He is ahead by 1% in Wisconsin and trails Biden by a mere .8% in Pennsylvania. The ingredients are there for a potentially comfortable Electoral College win.

Of course, all the normal and abnormal caveats apply on this occasion. Those in the US and around the globe who justifiably fear a second Trump presidency cite them, applaud an energetic State of the Union speech and employ other means of rationalisation to bolster their confidence that lightning will not strike again in eight months when, as they claim, “democracy is on the ballot.”

Fair enough. But they are kidding themselves if they refuse to admit the inconvenient truth. At this juncture, Joe Biden is in deep trouble.

Larry Donnelly is a Boston lawyer, a Law Lecturer at the University of Galway and a political columnist with

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