Voters on the ground and in polls continue to say “no” to a potential rematch between President Biden and former President Donald Trump in the general election next November.
Just 32% of all voters are enthusiastic about Biden becoming the party nominee, and 37% of all voters are enthusiastic about Trump becoming the GOP nominee, according to a Monmouth University poll conducted in September.
“Voters are unhappy with both candidates,” said Carly Cooperman, a Democratic strategist and pollster of 20 years. “Majorities of voters on both sides of the aisle say that they want other choices”
Despite an appetite for alternatives, Cooperman says a Trump-Biden matchup is a likelihood Americans should prepare for in 2024.
“I think it’s pretty inevitable that we’re going to see Biden and Trump going at it in 2024,” said Cooperman. “As much as people don’t want it, I think it would be highly unlikely for another scenario to take place.”
Voters on the ground don’t seem to want a repeat of 2020 election choices either. Nate Blackford from Westside, Iowa, says that although he believes the former president would be able to move the country forward, he thinks Trump will lose the general election.
“That’s my only concern. I don’t know that Trump can get the votes,” said Blackford. “I think he would be good for our country again. I don’t think he’s the best candidate currently. And if he ends up winning the GOP, that’s going to be disappointing.”
Greg, a Republican from Sioux City, Iowa, agrees, saying Trump’s name on the ballot only hurts the GOP.
“I think anyone not named Trump beats Biden in a landslide,” said Greg.
Don, from Sioux City, Iowa, says Trump’s legal woes will hurt him and thinks Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would be a better alternative.
“On every major issue, Trump was amazing. But he brings all that baggage with him. And nothing will galvanize the Democrat electorate more than Trump being the candidate even against Joe Biden,” said Don. “I think if we wanted to really make changes to the government, I think we need somebody like Ron.”
Daniel Weingarten from Clear Lake, Iowa, shares a similarly unhappy sentiment about a possible rematch and says both candidates are in a weak position to run.
“If the rematch happens between Trump and Biden, I think that that’s just a total loss for the country. Trump brings way too much baggage and makes it too much about himself and not about policy,” said Weingarten. “And Biden’s health and cognition looks to be in question.”
So why are voters left with two options they don’t seem to want? Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster and co-founder of polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, says for Biden it is due in part to the power that comes with incumbency. And for Trump, it’s his grip over certain Republican voters that can’t seem to be shaken.
“It’s always hard to replace an incumbent president,” said Newhouse. “He’s sitting at probably 75 to 80% among Democrats. That’s enough to kind of shut out, you know, any other kind of Democratic challenger. Donald Trump has essentially taken over the Republican Party. We even ask in our surveys among Republicans, ‘Do you consider yourself more to be a follower of the Republican Party or a follower of Donald Trump?’ And it’s essentially been dead even.”
Cooperman says that while it is possible for another candidate to steal the GOP spotlight, at this stage in the race the chances of someone other than Trump breaking through keeps getting slimmer.
“There was the expectation that somebody would emerge as a stronger challenger, given the negatives that Trump has. But it hasn’t taken off,” said Cooperman. “And now Nikki Haley is the latest. We’re watching closely. She’s getting a lot of money. She’s getting a lot of attention. But I think to convince voters to leave Trump, there has to be a compelling reason to do that at this point.”
In tentative matchups, Trump is beating Biden in five out of six battleground states, according to a New York Times/Siena Poll conducted last month.
Biden suggested last week he would not be running if it weren’t for Trump. His approval rating sits at 40%, while Trump’s favorability rating sits at 44% according to a Fox News Poll last month.
“Americans are unhappy because they think they should have more choices,” said Newhouse. “They’re looking at the candidates as two old white men who are aging out of existence. One who they think is a crook and the other many think is senile. They’re looking at this as just a horrible choice.”
Lindsey, from Des Moines, Iowa, says the poor quality of candidates is pushing her and others to consider someone outside the GOP and Democratic tickets.
“I don’t think most Americans want to see a rematch between Trump and Biden,” said Lindsey. “But if that does happen, there’s other people on the ballot. And I think a lot of people will exercise that right.”
Newhouse says if any election were to give rise to a third-party candidate, it would be the election in 2024.
“You’ve got a ton of voters out there who don’t want either of these candidates. And that’s giving fuel to some of these third-party candidates and some of the efforts to get someone else on the ballot as an alternative to either Trump or Biden,” said Newhouse.
“So, this is probably the perfect political environment for a third-party candidate to have at least as much success as Perot did back in the day.”
To underscore the extent of unhappiness among voters with a possible Biden-Trump rematch, Newhouse pointed to one focus group he conducted recently.
“We asked, ‘Who are you going to vote for?’ And the moderator says, ‘Gun to your head, who are you going to vote for, Trump or Biden?’ And we went around the table, and one woman says, ‘Bullet.’”
Not all Americans share the same drastic belief, but voters are vocal about heading in a new direction.
“This may be the last election where we have this generation of candidates running, and it’ll be the election where we’re finally hopefully turning the page,” said Newhouse.