Hungarian Conservative

A Trial, Economic Woes, and War: How the 2024 US Election Stands As of Now

Former US President Donald Trump in a Manhattan court room at the start of his criminal trial in April 2024.
Angela Weiss/AFP pool/EPA/MTI
Former President Trump’s criminal trial has begun in Manhattan, which some polling data suggests could cost him his victory in the presidential election in November. However, President Biden is not in a great position either as the economy and the state of foreign affairs have recently worsened, and he was already struggling with a low approval rating on these issues. How will all this end?

The 2024 US presidential election is just getting closer and closer, it is only a little over half a year away by now. The primary contents have been effectively over for a while now. Despite some doubts and misgivings even from the Democratic base, President Joe Biden will stand for reelection in the fall. Similar things can be said about former President Donald Trump: many in the Republican establishment were not very keen on the idea of having him on top of the party’s ticket again, but the former POTUS still cruised through the primary field.

Thus, for the first time since 1956, we have another pure rematch in the presidential election.

Then, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower easily defeated the same challenger of his from four years prior, Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson from the Democratic Party. Not many things are sure in this election cycle. However, what is certain is that we will not have such a wide margin of victory for either side this year.

President Trump’s chances for victory have worsened substantially in the past couple of months,

at least according to the sportsbooks around the world. As recently as mid-February, he was the clear favourite with virtually any bookie. The Special Council report which called into question President Biden’s basic cognitive skills was the catalyst for the rapid rise in the odds for the incumbent POTUS’ reelection (meaning bookies and bettors deemed his victory unlikely). Since then, however, President Biden’s approval ratings recovered somewhat—a trend that is already reversing back, more on that later. Bookies right now are turning a corner, with some having President Trump as the slight favourite, some having President Biden as the slight favourite, and some even offering the same odds for the two candidates.

However, even more importantly, President Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan, New York City, New York has begun.

Donald Trump is the first president in US history to stand criminal trial (although Ulysses S. Grant was arrested and then released for speeding on his horse and buggy in 1872).

Some polling indicates that voters would not be willing to vote for him if he were to be convicted by a jury of his peers. However, other polling data (specifically, from the typically left-leaning Quinnipiac) suggest that the majority of Americans believe that the prosecution of Trump is politically motivated.

Red Eagle Politics on Twitter: “The trial starts tomorrow.Democrats–convict him at your own peril. Even Quinnipiac doesn’t have your back on this! / Twitter”

The trial starts tomorrow.Democrats–convict him at your own peril. Even Quinnipiac doesn’t have your back on this!

As for general polling, as of the time of writing this,

President Trump still leads Joe Biden in the RealClearPolling aggregate by a very thin margin, 0.2 points.

When five candidates, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Jill Stein, and Cornel West are included, his lead expands to 1.8 points.

Trump has retained his lead over Biden in the RCP average since late August 2023, with the aggregate tying for a couple of days in October 2023. Interestingly, Trump’s overtake of the polling lead coincided with—or was caused by—the release of his mugshot by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in yet another criminal case. This is one piece of evidence that the ‘witch hunt,’ as President Trump likes to refer to his prosecution, has the potential to backfire on the Democrats.

That would certainly be the case if the Manhattan DA office fails to convict him. While a full acquittal is basically impossible, the jury may fail to reach a unanimous verdict resulting in a hung jury. This is what happened in the virtually identical case of former Democrat Senator and 2004 Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards. Senator Edwards also tried to disguise ‘hush money’ payments to a mistress in 2008 while running for the Democratic nomination, but not all members of the jury were willing to convict him in his 2011 trial, thus the case against him was dropped.

However, President Trump’s legal counsel will have to achieve the same in a very harsh environment. President Biden got 86.7 per cent of the vote in Manhattan in the 2020 election, as opposed to President Trump’s 12.3 per cent. In the same local jurisdiction, the DA office has already tried to violate his eight Amendment right by assigning a ridiculous, $454 million bond in his civil case, which was reduced to $175 million on appeal. Manhattan jurors have imposed huge penalties on him in questionable civil cases already—given these facts, it would be very reasonable for the Trump legal team to ask for a change of venue.

Not all news are bad for President Trump, however.

Consumer prices rose year-on-year more than expected in the third month of the year as well, 3.5 per cent in March. The Federal Reserve has already delayed the anticipated rate cuts for longer than investors would have wanted. With this new data, the Fed will be even less likely to cut rates in the near future. The markets reacted accordingly, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average erasing all its 2024 gains, and the NASDAQ composite index dipping below 16,000 points at market close yet again. The NASDAQ first closed above 16,000 back in November 2021, and has been struggling to stay below that threshold ever since.

Also, gas prices continue to rise. The national average is currently at $3.644 per gallon, according to the AAA’s tracker. In the meantime, the war in the Middle East escalated with Iran deploying drone strikes against Israel. The Biden administration has been pushing for a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to no avail. With these new developments, the possibility of their achieving that goal before the election has evaporated. President Biden has faced considerable backlash over his handling of the Israeli conflict, which manifested itself in ‘uncommitted’ protest votes during the primaries.

US President Joe Biden during a meeting with Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani of Iraq at the White House in April 2024. PHOTO: Bonnie Cash/UPI pool/EPA/MTI

All this resulted in President Biden’s approval dipping again after a brief recovery. CBS News has just released a poll which shows him with just a 40-per-cent approval rating and a 60-per-cent disapproval rating; while a New York Times/Siena poll also shows his approval at 40 per cent, with ‘just’ a 58-per-cent disapproval from the public. For comparison, President Trump averaged an approval rating of 45.7 per cent at this point into his first term, amidst a historic pandemic crisis.

So, taking all this into account, what are President Trump’s chances of getting a second, non-consecutive term?

Here are the things working against him:

  • President Biden has the incumbent advantage. Three out of the last four presidents were reelected.
  • President Trump could be the first US president to be convicted of felonies in criminal court. Some polling data suggest this would alienate independent voters.
  • The primary model by political science professor Helmut Norpoth gives President Biden a 75-per-cent chance for reelection.
  • The Republican Party performed disappointingly in the 2022 midterm elections. They lost one Senate and two governor seats (of which they already won one back in the 2023 off-year elections), while only winning a slim majority in the House—that majority has since further narrowed due to an expulsion and multiple resignations.

And here are the things working in favour of President Trump:

  • President Trump is the first former president to run as a non-incumbent since President Theodore Roosevelt decided to run third-party in 1912. This is likely to mitigate the incumbent advantage for President Biden, as both the incumbent and the challenger have similar name recognition and stature.
  • President Trump has been leading or tying the RealClearPolling national polling aggregate against President Biden for seven and a half months head-to-head. When all five considerable candidates are polled, President Biden has never led the aggregate. President Trump also has an advantage in favourabilty, as per the aggregate of FiveThirtyEight. While some state polls overestimated Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections, national polling was accurate.
  • Despite being indicted on a combined 96 felony charges, President Trump managed to maintain his polling lead and easily cleared the Republican primary. This suggests that voters are willing to support him despite his legal battles, and may even see it as unjust political prosecution by the Biden administration.
  • While the primary model favours President Biden 3:1, it gave President Trump 91 per cent for victory in 2020 and he still lost. This proves that the model has the potential to be widely inaccurate. The overall principle the model is based on, comparing primary vote share for the incumbent and the non-incumbent candidate, does not look bad for President Trump at all. He currently has captured 75 per cent of the popular vote in the Republican primary, with a handful of populous states and territories still yet to hold their contests where President Trump will be uncontested. This will likely result in him breaking the record for the highest vote share for a non-incumbent candidate in a primary set by Al Gore in 2000 who got 75.8 per cent of the popular vote in the Democratic primary. While Gore lost the election that year to Texas Governor George W. Bush from the Republican Party, he did manage to win the popular vote. Meanwhile, President Biden is getting an unusually small vote share for an incumbent, 86.7 per cent as of now. Professor Norpoth’s model arbitrarily narrows data down to just two states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and does not consider that President Biden’s main challenger on the Democratic side, RFK Jr, has already announced his independent run—which is even worse for an incumbent than a contested primary.
  • President Biden has a very low approval rating on the economy, just 37 per cent according to the latest Gallup poll. The economic woes are primarily caused by the high federal interest rates, which are unlikely to be cut significantly due to the higher-than-expected inflation (which, evidently, also adds to the struggle of everyday Americans). The rapid stock market gains of the past five months also seem to be proven unsustainable, and all major indexes are heading towards a losing quarter. The economy tends to be on top of the voters’ priority list.

Related articles:

‘Donald Trump is the president of peace’ — Viktor Orbán on His Visit to the US
Markets Dip after US Federal Reserve Decision, Hungarian National Bank Cuts Interest Rates Again
Former President Trump’s criminal trial has begun in Manhattan, which some polling data suggests could cost him his victory in the presidential election in November. However, President Biden is not in a great position either as the economy and the state of foreign affairs have recently worsened, and he was already struggling with a low approval rating on these issues. How will all this end?