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With Trump 2024, never say never

Low Democratic turnout could be disastrous for Biden and party overall

Guests walk past vendors as they arrive for what was supposed to be a rally hosted by former President Donald Trump on May 13 in Des Moines, Iowa. Trump's campaign canceled the rally before the gates were officially opened due to the possibility of tornadoes moving through the region.
Guests walk past vendors as they arrive for what was supposed to be a rally hosted by former President Donald Trump on May 13 in Des Moines, Iowa. Trump's campaign canceled the rally before the gates were officially opened due to the possibility of tornadoes moving through the region. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Just a quick word of advice to those people who are now saying that Donald Trump can’t beat Joe Biden because the former president is once again turning off swing voters and suburbanites.

Never say “never.” I’ve done it, and it’s a bad idea.

But that’s not my only message for 2024.

I’m not sure why political observers should look only at swing voters or college-educated white women or suburban voters to understand what is developing politically this year and next year.

Sure, those voters are crucial to Democratic prospects in November 2024, and many of them will once again be turned off by Trump’s style, language and views. But why take the Democratic base for granted?

Given Biden’s age, the shape of the economy and the public’s mood, Democrats better be certain that in 2024 they can turn out every Democratic voter and every independent who leans Democratic.

Mediocre Democratic turnout in places like Milwaukee; Madison, Wis.; metro Atlanta; and/or Philadelphia would be potentially disastrous for Democrats in general and Biden in particular, no matter how well the sitting president performs with swing voters.

Three states made the difference

Remember, Trump would have won the presidency in 2020 (courtesy of the House of Representatives) if he had carried just three more states: Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin. That’s all it would have taken.

If he had won those three, the election would have produced a 269-269 electoral vote deadlock, and the outcome would have gone to the House, where each state casts one vote to produce a winner. Since more states would have voted for Trump than Biden, Trump almost certainly would have been reelected.

Biden carried Arizona by 10,457 votes out of nearly 3.4 million votes cast. That produced a very narrow 49.4 percent to 49.1 percent win for Biden.

Biden carried Georgia by 11,779 votes out of nearly 5 million votes cast. That produced a very narrow 49.5 percent to 49.2 percent Biden win.

Biden carried Wisconsin by 20,682 votes out of nearly 3.3 million votes cast. That produced a narrow 49.4 percent to 48.8 percent Biden victory.

Finally, Biden carried Pennsylvania by 80,555 votes out of more than 6.9 million votes cast. That produced a narrow 49.9 percent to 48.7 percent Biden win.

These were microscopic victories, not comfortable winning margins. And that doesn’t count Michigan or Nevada, which were also very competitive in 2020.

Wasted blue state votes

Overall, Biden drew more than 7 million votes more than Trump did, and he is likely to do so again, if the two men are nominated by their parties.

But Democrats waste a large number of votes in California and New York, and Trump’s strategy once again would rest on winning the Electoral College even while losing the popular vote handily.

It’s amazing that more than 74 million Americans voted for Trump in 2020, and most of those voters seem prepared to vote for him again. They seem not to care about his reckless behavior in the White House, his autocratic approach to governing, his contempt for America’s allies and his apparent sympathy for Vladimir Putin.

If there will be a serious contest for the GOP presidential nomination, it has not started yet. At this point, it’s difficult to see former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, sitting South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott or businessman Vivek Ramaswamy threatening Trump.

A Trump versus Ron DeSantis fight certainly could be a real contest, though the Florida governor has stumbled recently while Trump is as aggressive and nasty as ever. But DeSantis has not yet fully engaged the former president, and the GOP rank and file has not yet begun to compare the two Republicans in a detailed way.

Is Trump a deeply flawed presidential hopeful who carries plenty of political baggage and has alienated roughly half of the country? Yes, of course. And that doesn’t even include Trump’s additional legal problems, which hang like a dark cloud over his head.

But Biden is flawed too, and his handling of the southern border, his age and appearance, and the public’s pessimistic view of the economy all give Trump loyalists reason to hope for a victory in 2024.

Democrats desperately need next year’s presidential election to be a choice, not a referendum — unless the referendum is on Trump. That may happen, but it is too early to see the full contours of the 2024 election, no matter how outrageous Trump sounds now.

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