Supporters loyal to Donald Trump rally at the US Capitol in Washington. File / Associated Press
Trump, 77, is dominating the Republican field, who have largely avoided criticizing him for his actions related to the 2020 election for fear of alienating his base of diehard supporters. Many of those supporters believe Trump's false claims that the election was stolen from him. His Republican rivals, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, instead have argued that Trump’s legal woes will hamstring him in a general-election fight against Biden.
One exception has been former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has condemned Trump’s attempts to subvert the 2020 election outcome. Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a long-shot candidate, has said Trump is unfit for office. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, a newcomer to politics, is running as an inheritor of Trump’s populist, America First agenda, one that is wary of an expansive federal government, corporate power and international alliances. DeSantis was once viewed as the most likely candidate to deny Trump the nomination, but his campaign has sputtered since launching in May despite having a big war chest. In the meantime, Haley has gained some momentum following strong debate performances.
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is also competing for the nomination, but has struggled to gain traction. opinion polls show that Trump is largely tied with Biden in head-to-head matchups, with voters concerned about Biden's age and his handling of the economy despite job growth, infrastructure investment and a slow easing of inflation after last year's peak.
Trump faces indictments in four cases in federal and state courts for his efforts to undermine the 2020 election, his mishandling of classified documents and his involvement in a "hush money” scheme involving a porn star. He has maintained his innocence and argued that he is the victim of politically motivated prosecutions, an assertion the Biden administration denies. The legal calendars for those cases pose obstacles for Trump's ability to campaign.
While voters may not be enthusiastic, Democratic leaders and major donors are backing Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris. Dean Phillips, a little-known US congressman from Minnesota, announced in October he would mount a long-shot challenge to Biden because he does not believe the president can win another term. Self-help author and speaker Marianne Williamson is also running against Biden. The president's pitch for a second term rests on his stewardship of the economy as it has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, and what he calls the "battle for the soul of America," a fight against Trump-aligned Republicans. Under Biden, unemployment dropped to generational lows, gross domestic product (GDP) grew faster than expected and wages have risen. However, inflation spiked last year, and, while it has eased in recent months, voters remain concerned about the high price of staples such as food, fuel, cars and housing. Should Trump be the Republican nominee, much of Biden's campaign is likely to focus on warning voters that Trump poses a mortal threat to American democracy.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., scion of the famed American political family and an anti-vaccine activist, has launched an independent bid rather than challenge Biden for the Democratic nomination. Kennedy has shown some appeal among both Republicans and Democrats unenthused about another Biden-Trump match-up.
Progressive activist Cornel West has also said he will run as an independent, and former presidential candidate Jill Stein has said she will seek the Green Party's nomination. The challenge for these candidates will be amassing enough support to land on the ballot in all 50 states next year.
Republicans will hold their first nominating contest in January with the Iowa caucuses. New Hampshire will hold a presidential primary election a week later, followed by Nevada, South Carolina and Michigan. Democrats plan to hold their first primary in South Carolina in February. "Super Tuesday" — when more than a dozen states will award delegates to the party conventions, statesding California and Texas — will be on March 5.
Each party will nominate the candidate who receives the most delegates at their nominating conventions in the summer of 2024. Republicans will hold their convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, while Democrats will stage theirs in Chicago.
The general election will be held on Nov. 5, 2024.
Abortion: Democrats plan to make abortion central to their 2024 campaign, with opinion polls showing most Americans don’t favor strict limits on reproductive rights. The issue has become more motivating to those who support abortion rights than to those who oppose them, and the party is hoping threats to those rights will encourage millions of women and independents to vote their way next year. The issue has divided Republicans, with some leaders concerned the party has gone too far with state-level restrictions since the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling last year, ending constitutional protection for abortion.
The Economy: Biden’s White House is trying to reassure Americans that the economy is in solid shape, with inflation slowing and unemployment at its lowest levels in a half-century. Republicans say they will cut federal spending, which they blame for stoking inflation and triggering consumer-price spikes, trim back federal regulations, and lower taxes.
Democrats argue the economy is healthy, wages are up, and investments in infrastructure are producing long-term job gains. Voters remain unconvinced. A Reuters/Ipsos poll in September found that 27% per cent of Biden's 2020 voters said their finances were "weaker" than they were before the pandemic, compared with 28% who said they were "better" and 42% who said they were "about the same." Immigration: Since taking office in 2021, Biden has grappled with record numbers of migrants caught illegally crossing the US-Mexico border, straining resources there and cities they have gone to, such as New York and Chicago.
Some Democrats have criticised Biden for turning to Trump-style enforcement measures to reduce illegal crossings, while the White House maintains it is moving to a more humane and orderly system by offering new ways for migrants to enter legally. Crime: Violent crime remains at higher levels across the nation than in 2019, the year before the COVID pandemic and unrest over racial justice. Americans of both parties are concerned, with 88% of respondents in a September Reuters/Ipsos poll saying crime would be an important issue for determining who gets their vote.
By James Oliphant, Associated Press
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