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Biden vs. Trump redux: what we know so far

Biden vs. Trump redux: what we know so far
Biden vs Trump redux | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: A couple of obvious points to begin with US elections. One, of course, they take far too long. Two, they cost far too much money. Three, we are so, so tired of both of those facts because they are such a distraction from being able to get policy done for almost 50% of the entire electoral calendar. Having said all of that, this is a particularly unfortunate upcoming election because we have two candidates that very few people are enthusiastic about. It's Biden versus Trump redux. That's not absolutely certain yet, but you would bet on it. And a couple of points that I think are a little less obvious.

First, whether or not Biden should run again. Everyone is saying, "Oh my God. Can't we get somebody else? He's 80 years old, he's going to be 82 if he wins. That's too old for anyone to be a CEO. Why would we be putting that person in a job that has such incredible importance globally?" And I get it. I absolutely get it. I think it's too old for the position. I'd rather have younger people running. But if you are interested in running the candidate that's most likely to win, do you go with an incumbent president or do you go with somebody else having no idea who that someone else is? And the answer seems to me is reasonably likely you go with the incumbent president. There are huge benefits in the US political system in running as an incumbent. If Biden decides he isn't going to run, Kamala Harris, who is much more unpopular than he is and certainly much more untested, and to the extent that she's tested, she's much more unproven than Biden, would be a weaker candidate, I think almost everyone would agree, than Biden would.

I do think there are better candidates out there. Gretchen Whitmer, for example, the governor of Michigan, Jared Polis, the governor of Colorado. There are others that I don't consider as effective, but nonetheless would be strong candidates like Governor Gavin Newsom of California. There are plenty of others, Gina Raimondo, for example, the secretary of commerce, it would be a pretty wide group, but would they be more effective and more likely to win if they aren't the incumbent president? And there, I think the answer is no, especially because the incumbent president isn't going to be doing a lot of campaigning for whoever that person is, and Biden is not up for that kind of a schedule, intense schedule, whether he's running or it's somebody else. I'm sympathetic to the view that even though Biden has capacity to be present until he is 86, is a serious concern that he might well be the most effective person for the Democrats to run. And especially running a relatively uncontested campaign. When you're running against Kennedy and Williamson, you're basically running an uncontested campaign.

Now, I also think that those people who say that Biden is incoherent and incompetent, that's performative, that's partisan, that is certainly not anyone who has spent time with Biden in conversation as president. I have, many, many people I know have, whether you're talking about members of cabinet or senators or other heads of state, Biden's ability, his mental coherence and cogency to handle the basics of the job and the importance of those meetings and decisions has not, in my view, substantially eroded over the last couple of years. I also do think, though, that there's a real question mark. He has lost a step or two, certainly physically in the last 10 years, and I do worry that this could be an issue over the course of his presidency. So if Biden becomes president a second time and he's going to run with Kamala again, is there a real likelihood that Kamala Harris becomes president? Of course, there is, and that's something that I think is going to be a concern for a lot of certainly independent voters.

Then on the Republican side, Trump is not a slam dunk, but at this point, he's at least a layup. He's a jumper from the free-throw line. He's likely to get the nomination. In part, he's likely because he's running a relatively smarter campaign, he's trying hard to lock up key endorsements early that will crowd out others like DeSantis maybe from even deciding that they're going to run, but certainly makes it more of an uphill struggle. He's raising a lot of money. He's spending that money already in targeted advertisements to go after, to kneecap those that would be potentially the stronger folks in the race.

I think it's likely that he is the nominee. I think he's too old. Though he strikes me as much more physically robust than Biden, I think his unfitness is primarily not about his age, though it's a concern. His unfitness has to do with everything else about the quality of his person, his lack of ethics and morals, and of course, what we have seen from his first term in governance and not his administration, but how he personally has acted in that office. Something that I think would be a concern to a greater degree if he runs again. Now, a lot of people I hear saying, "Well, if Trump gets the presidency again, then he's going to have no one good around him because they will refuse to work with him, and it'll be a completely incompetent administration." I think that's precisely wrong. I think once Trump gets the nomination, almost all of the GOP will line up behind him.

I think Nikki Haley, it's very clear that her run is an effort to become Trump's VP, and if she gets that, she's one of the most capable and competent Republicans out there through when she was governor, when she was UN ambassador. There's no question about that. And do I think that she would be effective as a VP? Frankly, more so than Pence. I think Pompeo would still be there. I think that a shocking number of GOP members, maybe not Chris Christie, maybe not Asa Hutchinson, certainly not Liz Cheney, not Mitt Romney, but the strong majority of Republicans would support Trump, and they would even be willing if they got the right position to join the administration. The bigger danger, I think, is that a Trump administration, having been through four years, will know what they need to do to have much more impact in what they want to get done, not just in terms of policy, which is generally less problematic, but in terms of eroding democracy.

For example, really hollowing out civil service in a lot of administrations that they think are stopping them from doing things they want to do. The brittleness of US institutions after another four years of a Trump administration, I think, would be a lot greater than they were after the first four, where his impact on those institutions as a whole was relatively limited.

What happens? Damned if I know. I'm not going to sit here and tell you I think I have a strong view of who's going to actually win the election. I think we're far off from that. I saw the Washington Post poll like everyone else did, that shows that right now, Trump is actually leading Biden head-to-head. It's the first major poll that showed that. Before, most have showed that Biden would win head-to-head against Trump. I think part of it has to do with how Biden holds up from a health perspective. Part of it has to do with how well the economy looks. Part of it has to do with how Trump is able to campaign. And we've got a long, long way to go with a lot of moving parts and also some fairly substantial global crises that we and others are dealing with on the global stage before people go to the ballot box on November in 2024.

Having said that, a lot of people are going to get really exhausted by this campaign, and I'm sorry for everyone, but we are at the beginning of it, and it's a long slog, and I'll be talking you through. So everyone, be good. I'll talk to you soon. Bye


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