It’s a Biden vs. Trump rematch, two years early.
The final days of the 2022 midterm campaign are offering a foretaste of a likely 2024 White House campaign, with President Biden and former President Trump squaring off in a proxy battle.
Biden has increasingly mentioned Trump in his stump speeches as he urges Americans to back Democrats and consider the consequences of voting for Republicans who deny election results. Since leaving office, Trump has rarely passed up an opportunity to bash his successor, including this year in campaign rallies in battleground states. His super PAC has funded ads that attack the president.
The tit-for-tat comes as both men have signaled they intend to run for the White House in 2024.
“I can’t recall a time when it seemed as obvious who the two candidates are going to be [two years from now] as it is with what we’re looking at for 2024,” said Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the centrist think tank Third Way.
Both men have much at stake on Tuesday.
For Biden, sweeping Republican victories would be a rebuke of his repeated warnings that democracy is on the ballot from voters who are concerned about rising prices. And a Republican majority would pose a major obstacle to Biden pushing through additional parts of his agenda before the 2024 campaign begins in earnest.
Trump, meanwhile, is expected to try to seize credit for big GOP wins and parlay that into his own 2024 announcement as early as mid-November.
The former president’s endorsement of Senate candidates in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia put those individuals over the top in primaries, and their results on Tuesday would either bolster Trump’s grip on the GOP or potentially offer a counterargument for a would-be 2024 challenger.
Though Biden has largely kept his schedule to appearing in bluer states where his middling approval rating won’t hurt Democratic candidates, he has more frequently talked about his predecessor, attacks many Democrats see as catnip for their base.
The president on Wednesday delivered a speech on the stakes in next week’s elections, warning that Trump has corroded faith in democratic institutions.
“American democracy is under attack because the defeated former president of the United States refuses to accept the results of the 2020 election. He refuses to accept the will of the people. He refuses to accept the fact that he lost. … And he’s made a Big Lie an article of faith in the MAGA Republican Party — the minority of that party,” Biden said.
At a Thursday fundraiser in California, Biden criticized how “Trump and all his Trumpies” have defended the rioters from Jan. 6, 2021, and connected that attack directly to the recent assault on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) husband in their home.
“I think part of this is Biden is starting to set up the 2024 race. In some ways I see this a little bit less as a big influence on 2022,” Kessler said, acknowledging that Biden’s focus on election deniers and Trump may resonate with some undecided voters in the midterms.
Biden has repeatedly said he intends to run for reelection without ever outright declaring it. When asked if the prospect of Trump running again factors into his decision, Biden said in an October CNN interview he believes he can defeat him again.
Trump, meanwhile, has been hinting at a 2024 White house bid for some time, using rallies and events for midterm candidates to remain in the spotlight and attack Biden.
At a rally on Thursday in Iowa — the first caucus state for the 2024 primary — Trump mentioned Biden numerous times, including criticizing the president over the withdrawal from Afghanistan, his energy policies and his approach to the southern border.
“Under Joe Biden, America is no longer respected,” Trump said.
Trump will hold rallies in the days leading up to the midterms in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, all states that are traditionally battlegrounds. The former president’s super PAC has also gotten involved in recent weeks, airing ads in states including Nevada and Pennsylvania that tie Democratic candidates to Biden.
Multiple reports indicated Trump could announce his own plans for 2024 as soon as Nov. 14, less than a week after Election Day.
Kellyanne Conway, a former Trump campaign manager and White House adviser, told a roundtable of reporters on Thursday that Trump has been a constant presence in GOP politics, “including into his post-presidency years.”
“In many ways, don’t miss why and how Trump is running for president again if he would like, because he actually never stopped being part of it,” Conway said.
But the seemingly constant campaign has worn on many voters who have signaled they are eager for both parties to turn the page in 2024.
A USA Today-Suffolk University poll taken from Oct. 19-24 found Biden leading Trump in a prospective rematch, 46 percent to 42 percent.
But 64 percent of respondents said they don’t want Biden to run for a second term, compared to 26 percent who said they do. And the poll found 68 percent of respondents don’t want Trump to run for a second term, compared to 27 percent who said they do.
“I think there’s fatigue in general about politics,” Kessler, the Third Way co-founder, said. “And the country is in a sour mood, and it feels like a nonstop campaign for Americans.”