In politics, 18 months is a long time.
The rapid-fire, high-profile events of the past week set the tone for a presidential race that is still in its nascent stages. It features an incumbent president, and the Republican frontrunner, whom polls show many Americans do not like, but are resigned to accepting.
A surprising poll -- likely an outlier -- showed that President Biden lost to both the former president Donald J. Trump, and his closest presumed primary rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida.
In quick succession, we saw a jury verdict that found Mr. Trump guilty of sexual abuse, an edgy town hall in New Hampshire that brought back the falsehoods of the former president and his bluster, the lifting up of the pandemic-era border controls, and the raft of endorsements of Mr. DeSantis that demonstrated that many Republican leaders were open to a Trump replacement.
Both leaders, strategists, and voters were extremely anxious.
Dave Carney, an experienced Republican consultant from New Hampshire where the first Republican primaries will be held in February, said: 'We are in the middle of a primary which has not yet formed. During this time, the chance to make Biden look bad with his incompetence, is slipping away. It's a scattershot situation right now.
Democrats who were expected to rally behind their standard bearer have spent the past week expressing a division on border security, and questioning President Obama on key policy matters.
Strategists have pleaded with Democratic voters to put aside their discontent, and accept that the president is the best thing they can hope for.
Stuart Stevens, a long-time Republican political advisor who left the party when Mr. Trump became president, exhorted the audience at the New Hampshire townhall to 'live in the real world'. If you didn't support Biden after seeing Donald Trump, then you helped elect Trump. It's simple.
Ro Khanna, a liberal Democrat who is often willing to speak out about what other Democrats are afraid to, laid out a vision of economic renewal during a speech on Friday in New Hampshire. He contrasted President Obama's modest goals with his inability to win the support of white working class voters, whom Mr. Biden said he was uniquely qualified to win.
At a dinner for Democrats in Nashua, Mr. Khanna said, 'People are desperate for healing and for leadership that unifies.' We do not have to compromise our values to find a common cause.
In an interview with the BBC on Saturday, he clarified that it wasn't meant as a criticism. It was an 'appeal for a bolder program that captures and inspires the working-class Americans'.
Political predictions so far before an election are not reliable. DeSantis is yet to announce his candidacy, but he and Trump are already circling and competing against each other in Iowa and New Hampshire. These contests are the first for the Republican nomination for president. David Kochel is a Republican consultant in Iowa who has noted that even Iowans tend to wait until the end of the year to pay attention to the race.
The question remains: where are we now?
Simon Rosenberg, the man who correctly predicted a surge in Democratic activism to blunt the promised "red wave" of the midterm elections of 2022, said that the "fear of MAGA" that drove Democratic victories of 2018, 2020, and 2022 has not decreased ahead of 2024. He said that the fear of MAGA, which was a driving force behind Democratic victories in 2018, 2020 and 2022, has not diminished ahead of 2024.
The performance of Mr. Trump at a CNN Town Hall on Wednesday evening, in which he repeatedly lied about 2020 elections, mocked E. Jean Carroll whose allegations of sexual abuse and slander ended in a judgment of $5 million against him, and promised a returning to some of his most unpopular policies, only reinforced why Democrats, Independents, and disaffected Republicans are turning away from the G.O.P. In the key states like Arizona, Georgia Nevada, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
After the town hall, the Biden reelection campaign was in full swing after Mr. Trump made his formal announcement. He made the case to journalists by pointing out that Mr. Trump took pride in overturning Roe v. Wade, his dismissive view of the potential economic disaster that could result if the federal debt is not paid, his referring Jan. 6, 2020, as a 'beautiful day', and his refusal accept the results of the 2024 elections.
Biden's campaign adviser claimed that Trump had provided a wealth of material to create attack ads. The campaign posted videos almost instantly. Never Back Down (the super PAC of Mr. DeSantis) called the 70 minute performance 'over one hour of nonsense'
Both parties will have to figure out how to keep the voters they already have and gain back those that they lost in 2024.
Rosenberg added that he would still prefer to be with us over them.
It is possible that Mr. Rosenberg’s assessment was the reason why 37 Republican officials from Iowa, including State Senate President Amy Sinclair and House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl endorsed Mr. DeSantis in the last week. Jason Osborne, the majority leader of the New Hampshire House, also backed Mr. DeSantis.
Republican consultants in both States said that Mr. Trump’s name recognition and his political persona may give him the highest level of Republican support. However, the same factors also lower the ceiling for this support. This gives Mr. DeSantis, and other challengers, a real opportunity to knock him down if they're willing to do so.
Last week, the Trump campaign appeared to be aware of this dynamic as it targeted potential rivals. Not only did it attack those who were clearly in the process of entering the race, but also others who were far away. On Saturday, Trump criticized Georgia's Republican Governor, Brian Kemp, as being disloyal. This was just days after a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution implied that the governor kept his options open.
DeSantis's own stumbles have been evident from the start. His battle with Disney provided fodder to rivals who questioned the Republican's involvement in the free market. His six-week ban on abortion and the aggressive censorship by his state of school textbooks has raised concerns among potential Republican donors as well as swing voters. The Florida governor has ample time to present his case.
Kochel stated that there was still a lot to be done and he did not see any progress yet. There's a lot of space for candidates who aren't named Trump.
The Republicans are most surprised by the Democrats' docility in the face Mr. Bidens' obvious flaws. Consultants say that age and infirmity, not Republican talking-points, are the real issues.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Monday showed that Mr. Biden lost head-to-head competitions against Mr. Trump or Mr. DeSantis between five and six points. Democratic pollsters dismissed these results, pointing out anomalies such as the fact that Mr. Trump won young voters by a wide margin while Mr. Biden's lead over Mr. Trump for Black and Hispanics was dramatically reduced.
The poll did not support Mr. Biden’s claim that he is the best Democrat to defeat a Republican comeback, just as he beat Mr. Trump in 2019.
Republicans claim that this is simply not possible.
Mr. Carney stated that the dynamic of the campaign in 2024 would worsen, not improve. The chaotic scenes at the southwest border will inflame Republican voter's fears of an invasion of illegal immigrants in the coming months.
The situation at the border may also give swing voters the impression that Mr. Biden does not have control. Former allies such as Eric Adams, the mayor of New York, and Lori Lightfoot (the outgoing mayor of Chicago) pleading with assistance to deal with a flood migrants, this conclusion won't be contained by Republican voters.
A financial crisis could be triggered by the upcoming showdown on how to increase the borrowing limit of federal government as early as next month. While voters may initially blame Republicans in Congress, the economic crisis ultimately falls on the president.
Republicans agree that Mr. Biden’s voters may not switch back to Mr. Trump but they can simply stay at home on Election Day.
I believe it matters.