Chances are Nikki Haley will not beat Trump and steal the GOP nomination. It is more than a long shot for that to happen. Haley could not even get the Senator she appointed, Tim Scott (R-SC), to endorse her. And she is behind by more than 30 points in her home state. Haley may be the last woman standing between Trump and the nomination, but only the most unlikely scenario would find her around by the end of March.
Trump has proven that a majority of Republican voters either do not believe Trump is guilty of serious crimes or do not care. Most of them continue to believe Trump is the victim of unfair prosecution that Joe Biden launched against him.
Thus, Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. Fortunately, that does not mean he will be elected president. It is far more likely that Joe Biden will be inaugurated for a second term on January 20, 2025.
How will Biden win? It will not be because of his legal troubles. It will be the economy, stupid. Democratic and independent voters, and even a few sane Republicans, are starting to wake up to the fact that the economy is good and getting better. Maybe that is one reason why Donald Trump expressed the bizarre hope that the economy will crash before election day. Trump knows that the success of the Biden presidency will carry Biden over the line.
Economists now tell us that the U.S. economic recovery is stronger than that of any other western economy. They also now predict “a soft landing” for the economy, meaning there will not be a recession. And they also acknowledge something that consumers do not need an economist to tell them—inflation is subsiding. Mind you, prices are still high, but they are no longer rising precipitously.
Over the next 10 months, Donald Trump will do his best to convince voters that Joe Biden has been a disaster as president and that today’s strengthening economy resulted from his four years in the White House. That is a heavy lift that even Trump supporters are likely to question. Donald, they will say, you cannot have it both ways. Either the economy is a disaster, or it is not.
Joe Biden continues to have vulnerability on border security, crime, “wokeness” (many Republicans craft their own definition of wokeness and then condemn it), and, of course, Biden’s age and Vice President Harris. How many voters who are not already wedded to Trump will migrate to his camp on the basis of these issues? My guess is few.
James Carville, the Ragin’ Cajun who helped put Bill Clinton in the White House, told us, “It’s the economy, stupid.” He was and continues to be right. On election day, voters look at their own circumstances and focus on those issues. Are they hopeful about the future—things like jobs, inflation, housing, and health? If they are, they will support Biden.
Three years ago, Joe Biden decided to “go big.” He passed major infrastructure legislation, committing trillions of dollars to address a variety of national problems, including action on climate change, roads, and social services. The economy is now telling us that “Biden’s reckless spending” did not crash the economy or give us double-digit inflation.
Better yet is something not appreciated by most of us. Much of the stimulus to the economy inherent in the infrastructure legislation is yet to come. Many of the construction projects authorized by the legislation, for example, are only now getting underway. This means that the Biden legislation will continue to create jobs, making a rise in the unemployment rate less likely. And the money flowing into the economy as infrastructure projects get underway will help ensure a continued robust economy.
Finally, let’s look at foreign affairs. The world is a mess. Trump, right on cue, claims that if he had succeeded in stealing the 2020 election (he does not refer to it quite that way), there would be no war in Ukraine, Israel, or anywhere else. He claims the military loved him and that world leaders across the globe respected him. These claims defy credibility. They are patently absurd. Yes, the world is a mess, but it is easier to imagine it being much more of a mess had Trump won in 2020.
A few years ago, a wise friend told me that federal prosecutors should give Trump a pass—do not attempt to hold him accountable because he will paint himself a victim. In a way, my friend was right. But I disagreed with him then, and I disagree with him now. Nobody is above the law. If you do the crime, you should do the time.
On election day, 2024 voters will focus on their kitchen-table issues. If they do so, Biden will win. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but that is it. And voters do not have to trust anyone to see that the economy is strengthening, and that Biden is not the problem.
The economy will save Joe Biden.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government and other subjects.