Now that the leaves have dropped off the trees, it’s time to take a moment to examine the state of the 2024 presidential race. Both of the major parties are stuck in a rut: At this point, it’s highly likely that they’ll be re-nominating the same candidates as last time, even though a majority of the country would like to see somebody else run in both cases.

For Republicans, that view is understandable.

Donald Trump did, after all, lose reelection in 2020. Even if you don’t accept that, and believe that those results were rigged, Trump hasn’t clearly enunciated any plan to stop that from happening again. While Republicans have successfully changed the voting rules in some states and local jurisdictions, it’s mainly happened in areas they already controlled.

Following through on that plan, they’ve mostly only been able to change procedures in places that Trump won in 2020 anyway – which is unlikely to affect the overall national result. Although Georgia is an uncommon exception to that, the new laws limiting drop boxes in the state weren’t needed to get Republicans over the finish line. After all, other Republicans besides Trump were able to win under the old rules. Even if he were right about the 2020 election, Trump is continuing to use it as an excuse to explain away his loss, rather than doing anything to keep it from recurring.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party, most of the base seems content enough with that explanation; none of the other candidates in the 2024 primaries seem to be gaining much traction.

We’re in the winnowing phase of the pre-primary period, and it’s hard to see any of the candidates dropping out having much of an effect on the race overall. Polls show Trump leading the rest of the field with an ample majority, not a simple plurality, so even if he only faced one opponent, he’d still be ahead. That may well change once voting begins – particularly if Trump stumbles in Iowa or New Hampshire – but for now, Trump is far ahead. Even if the general public and a significant portion of Republicans want a fresh face, the majority of the party is still lined up behind Trump, despite the plethora of readily available alternatives.


Democrats face the opposite problem: They have a candidate in President Biden who is widely disliked, both within and outside the party, but have no viable alternatives with which to replace him. Right now, his only opponents are also-rans who have even less chance of winning than Trump’s opponents.

Take, for instance, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: He was seemingly the most viable Democrat running against Biden, but recently decided to switch course and run as an independent. That’s understandable, because his platform is an odd hodgepodge of left-wing and right-wing views that wouldn’t have been acceptable to most Democratic primary voters. He’s gotten the most attention lately for his anti-vaccination views, which have become more prevalent on the right since the pandemic. Kennedy Jr. also supports single-payer health care and student loan debt relief, however – positions that will alienate conservatives.

Even though there seem to be widespread doubts among many Democrats about Biden’s viability, he doesn’t face any prominent opposition in the primaries. That’s remarkable, because his current approval rating isn’t much better than his predecessor’s was when he lost reelection. Given that, it should come as no surprise that the race remains a close one, even in light of the Jan. 6 insurrection and Trump’s mounting legal woes.

There’s a simple reason, though, that Democrats aren’t rallying behind any kind of alternative to Biden: They don’t really have anyone better at the moment. Vice President Kamala Harris hasn’t exactly been impressive in her role. California Gov. Gavin Newsom might be young, articulate and impressive to liberals, but it’s hard to imagine him winning over swing voters. There aren’t any prominent Democratic members of Congress who are ready to launch a presidential bid. That’s why it’s easy to dismiss any conspiracy theories about Democrats having a secret plan to replace Biden – they simply don’t have any better options.

For very different reasons, the two parties may be stuck, hurtling the country towards a rematch that nobody wants. Republicans have plenty of options that their voters don’t want; Democrats have a nominee their voters don’t want, but don’t have other options. Next year’s election may well end up being close, but, sadly, it will probably be a dreary repeat of the last.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
Twitter: @jimfossel

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