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A preview into the 2024 presidential election

A look at the potential/confirmed candidates for the 2024 presidential election. Credit: Axios.

With the beginning of the 2024 presidential election process, political campaigning and debates have taken flight, granting the public adequate opportunity to learn about the candidates. For the Democrats, current candidates are Joe Biden, Marianne Williamson, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., with a high prospect for the incumbent president to win the primary election. In the Republican party, Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, and Chris Christie are big names in the current polls after the first Republican debate on Aug. 23, 2023.

The candidates in the first Republican debate of the presidential primary cycle contended over various subjects, with topics hitting on abortion, immigration, the economy, and foreign policy.

Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Republican debate surrounding abortion became analogous to the saying, “the dog finally caught the car.” The party, united against abortion, finally achieved its goal, and now the candidates have to proclaim what they wish to do nationwide.

“Winning fractures the coalition – there’s a different understanding of what Americans want the law to be. All the tiny details about how the law is going to work are going to function to divide what was just a very unified movement. The Republicans now have a contentious issue,” said history teacher David Abraham.

Haley, in the heart of the abortion debate, leaned heavily on establishing an emotional tie to the American public. Seeing as the Senate has insufficient numbers to establish a federal abortion ban, Haley proposed a discussion on maternal health care and adoption services. To create a personal narrative around the issue, Haley talked about her two complicated pregnancies and the fact that her husband was adopted. She claimed to understand that the overturning of Roe v. Wade was not popular, and she acknowledged the fact that a federal abortion ban is unrealistic. Her stance was striking because, in primaries, candidates do not tend to deal with practicalities or emotional aspects; they instead preach what the more extreme wing of their party wants to hear.

Though Republican candidates did not focus extensively on the economy in their first debate, it is a commonly debated topic that will recur throughout the election process. The Democrats are not planning any primary debates, and Biden appears to be leaning on his record for the economy, with a rapid decrease in unemployment and an increase in small businesses. These outcomes relate to the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. In some of his campaign ads, the main focus is specifically on the number of jobs created.

Whenever a politician uses the term “jobs created” while campaigning, the sentence structure is designed to take credit for creating all of the new jobs. However, the politician takes credit for the total number of existing and new positions, including government jobs and private sector jobs.

Given that there have been an enormous number of jobs added since Biden took office, the president is taking credit for it. It is necessary to underline that when he took office, COVID-19 was a significant contributing factor to why the unemployment rate was high. Therefore, Republicans may claim that the unemployment rate is much lower and has little to do with Biden’s policies. In fact, “Bidenomics” was a phrase that the Biden team attempted to coin, but Republican candidates used it as a derogatory concept.

While the war in Ukraine was heavily debated in the GOP debate, foreign policy likely will not be an election decider.

“I can’t think of the last time an American election was swayed by foreign policy when America was not actively involved in a war. That tends to be the only time foreign policy is controversial,” said Abraham.

Ramaswamy, a businessman, made comments about foreign policy that do not have a great history of polling well, but seeing as he is the least known candidate, it determined little. Stylistically, Ramaswamy has lots of charisma, whether he is rapping Eminem at the Iowa State Fair or coming across as charming and energetic on stage. Substantively, he shows little care about whether China invades Taiwan and claims that it is not the U.S.’s job to make sure Vladimir Putin loses to Ukraine. These statements do not poll very well in terms of what the American people want from national security policy.

In the debate, when the topic reached the Ukrainian war, Haley, who had been secretary to the UN under Trump, went after him for being naive about the world and about what will keep the American people safe. One of her recurring statements was that if America doesn’t stop Putin now, it’s only a matter of time before he invades Poland and moves westward.

“I think there was a real desire on her part to be seen as the sober, responsible foreign policy person,” said John Monahan, a head of Civil Dialogue Fellows and adviser to the Young Democrats club at Westminster.

Haley had a robust debate and spoke out strongly about immigration. Under George W. Bush’s presidency, Republicans favored substantive immigration reform, but Trump’s policies made the party more skeptical of immigration. It will be difficult for Biden if he’s facing Haley, as debates regarding immigration will be competitive. The Democrats also face a problem with white union workers because immigrants will compete for their jobs and likely depress wages. If Trump is the Republican nominee, the red team will likely be against immigration, and the blue team will likely be for it.

Former president Trump, who did not attend the GOP debate, will face felony charges in four separate cases in the coming months, three of which are federal cases and one of which is a case in Georgia. In this process, judges decide on a trial date that they tell the prosecution and the defense, and the defense can file motions asking for the trial to be moved earlier or later. As of now, one of Trump’s trials is set to start the day before Super Tuesday, when many delegates in the first wave of primaries are decided. Trump’s indictments are interpreted by Republicans as an attack, creating a rally around the flag effect: if America gets attacked, the citizens become uber-patriotic. It remains to be seen whether or not his indictments will increase his support.

“I think it’s doubtful that seeing him on trial for serious charges will continue to have the same ‘rally around the flag’ effect. Once Republican voters see Trump put on trial in Georgia, then they may begin looking for a number two candidate. However, at the moment, it’s still very early and a bit too difficult to make any predictions,” said Abraham.

“With each indictment, Trump’s poll numbers have increased in a way that historians and political scientists have no analogy for,” said Monahan. “It’s imaginable that we get to that trial, and the actual sight of Trump in court will change the public’s view because they don’t want a president in jail. Things may swing at the last minute.”

Trump’s indictments do not influence the legality of his candidacy to run for president, but running for presidency from prison certainly would put him at a disadvantage. If Trump is elected, he may be able to pardon himself for any federal convictions. Still, Georgia’s law says that if someone were to pardon him, it would be the governor, and in this case, he is at a disadvantage as he has antagonized Brian Kemp repeatedly.

“Also, the way Georgia law works is that the governor cannot pardon him until he’s served most of his sentence. Trump could be given probation, but if he’s given jail time, he can’t be pardoned until he serves his time,” said Monahan. “Then, what we’d be saying is that the commander-in-chief will be making decisions from a jail cell. The constitution is silent on this because it was written in 1789; there wasn’t any clause on how classified intelligence should be dealt with in the 21st century from a jail cell.”

The 2024 United States presidential election is scheduled to be held on Nov. 5, 2024.

Edited by Cece Schrader

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