How Unknown Factors Could Upend the 2024 Presidential Election

Member Group : Let Freedom Ring, USA

What are the factors that will affect the Presidential candidate lineup in 2024? As former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was fond of saying, there are known unknowns and there are unknown unknowns. Most political pundits look at the one factor that happens to be right in front of them, and try to prognosticate the entire, complex, six-month process of picking a nominee from that one data point. The factor of the week is Donald Trump’s Iowa results. No one has ever won the Iowa Caucuses by such a wide margin. No one has ever been so far ahead. No one has ever come from as far behind as both DeSantis and Haley are. Trump is already the putative Republican nominee.

There are 2,429 delegates to be awarded in the Republican party’s process, and just 40 of those were apportioned on Monday. There are even fewer at stake in next week’s New Hampshire primary – just 22. Taken together, those 62 delegates represent less than 3 percent of the total, and there are six months left until the Republican National Convention. That’s a lot of opportunity for unknowns to assert themselves and upend the race entirely.

Based upon one early poll this week, the always certain but often wrong Dick Morris said “News flash for Niki. Give it up. It’s over.” Real Clear Politics featured this from John Kass, “After former President Donald Trump’s hhuuuge (sic), massive and historic victory in the Iowa caucuses, this truth shall be known: The party is over for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.” USA Today asks, “Is the 2024 Republican primary over for good? Is Trump effectively the GOP nominee after winning just the Iowa Caucuses?” A Washington Post headline blares “Across the GOP, many see Trump as likely nominee.” Ben Shapiro writes “Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president after a dominant performance in the Iowa caucuses.” They’re all wrong.

The quoted opinionators are ignoring at least three very large known unknowns that could take Trump out before the General Election: his legal troubles, his health and future polling. His legal troubles are many and well-known. Will his support implode if he is convicted of one or more felonies? There are early polling indications that it might. At 77 and obese, is he vulnerable to a major health episode? The Internet has been buzzing about some perceived weakness in one of his legs in the last week, suggesting that he may have suffered a minor stroke in addition to exhaustion. And if widespread polling this summer suggests that Trump would suffer a landslide loss of historic proportions in November, isn’t it at least conceivable that Republican power brokers will use every procedural trick in the book to deny him the official nomination at the convention?. And those are just the known unknowns.

On the Democratic party side, there are some recent tea leaves that may be read to suggest that Biden’s grip on his nomination may be weakening, even while he remains nearly unchallenged in their primaries. No one expects Dean Phillips or Marianne Williamson to win, but the fact that they continue to register higher than expected support in polls demonstrates Biden’s vulnerability. His known weaknesses are low approval polls and concerns about his age. But there’s another potential candidate who could sweep in and win the nomination by acclamation as late as their Convention: Michelle Obama. Did you notice the recent news stories about Barack Obama’s worries that Biden’s candidacy is in trouble? Ditto David Axelrod’s well-publicized concerns? Both of those might very well be read as laying the groundwork for a Michelle Obama candidacy. The conventional wisdom is that she is not interested, but I think that’s suspect. She might not be interested in campaigning, but would she really reject a call to run on the grounds that she alone could save her country?  The Democratic convention will be a full month later the Republican convention. That gives Democrats the advantage of certainty of who their Republican opponent will be, and if it’s Trump or Nikki Haley, I think Michelle Obama would plausibly accept a draft to save the country from Trump or make sure that the first woman elected President is not a Republican.

My advice to the listeners of this program is not to fall for predictions based on only one or two factors. The known unknowns are too many, and the unknown unknowns are, well, unknown.