The United States is barreling toward a 2024 rematch between President Biden and former President Trump that few Americans want to see.
Biden has for months been hounded by questions about his age and voter concerns about whether he is up for another four years in the White House. The president would be 86 at the end of a potential second term, and his approval rating has hovered below 40 percent for much of the past year.
Trump, meanwhile, has been a divisive figure ever since he launched his 2016 campaign with incendiary rhetoric about Mexican immigrants. Many voters are weary of seeing Trump back on the ballot given his plethora of legal problems and the chaos of his first four years in office, and Democrats view him as a danger to democracy.
As a result, analysts say, it is unsurprising that a number of polls suggest a large portion of the country doesn’t want to see this rematch.
“It’s a product of the fact that both of these candidates have very serious drawbacks, and they have drawbacks of different natures,” said Grant Reeher, director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University.
“The independents that are part of the polling … don’t like either of them. And then, of course the Democrats in the polls are not going to give Trump any positive ratings, and Republicans are not going to give Biden any positive ratings,” he continued.
“I think the dynamic is a product of the depth of our polarization right now. It’s driving the general dissatisfaction, but it’s driving the tendency for the parties to lock in on whoever was or were their standard-bearers.”
An Associated Press/NORC poll conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4 found 56 percent of adults would be very or somewhat dissatisfied with Biden as the Democratic nominee, while 58 percent of adults said they would be very or somewhat dissatisfied with Trump as the Republican nominee.
The displeasure extends to some partisans, the poll found. Roughly one-third of Democrats said they would be dissatisfied with Biden as their nominee in 2024, and roughly 25 percent of Republicans said they would be dissatisfied with Trump as their nominee.
The AP poll capped off a yearlong trend in polling that found many Americans were not eager to see a rematch of 2020.
An April NBC News poll found 70 percent of Americans felt Biden should not run for reelection, while 60 percent said they did not think Trump should run for another term.
And a June poll from CNN found 31 percent of voters preferred neither Trump nor Biden in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up.
Despite the lingering discontent, Trump and Biden remain the overwhelming favorites to be the nominees for their respective parties next November.
“Voters always tell pollsters they want more choices, because people always want more choices,” said Alex Conant, who worked on Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) 2016 presidential campaign. “I think the fact of the matter is the power of incumbency is not diminished in modern politics. If anything, it’s strengthened, and both of these candidates are the de facto incumbents.”
The overwhelming majority of Democrats have lined up behind Biden to back his reelection bid, with the exception of Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), who is running a long-shot primary campaign.
Phillips is running on a similar policy platform to Biden, but the congressman has voiced concerns that the president’s age is too big of a drawback to ignore.
Trump, meanwhile, holds a dominant lead in the Republican primary, with the Iowa caucuses set for Jan. 15. Trump leads his rivals in national polls by an average of roughly 50 percentage points.
A recent Selzer Iowa poll found Trump polling at more than 50 percent, while the latest Saint Anselm College poll in New Hampshire had Trump ahead of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley by 14 percentage points.
Trump is facing more than 90 criminal charges, and he is scheduled to be tied up in court in multiple cases early in 2024. But while those cases will complicate Trump’s campaign schedule, it’s unclear how much it would hurt him with primary voters.
A New York Times/Siena College poll released Dec. 20 found 62 percent of Republican voters believe Trump should remain the GOP nominee even if he is convicted of a federal crime.
The questions around voters’ appetite for another Trump-Biden match-up have stoked talk of an independent ticket. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has said he will run as an independent, though it remains unclear whether he will end up on the ballot in enough states for it to matter.
The independent effort that appears to have the clearest path to appearing on ballots nationwide is the one organized by No Labels, a self-described “national movement of commonsense Americans.”
The group has qualified to appear on the ballot in 12 states, which is the maximum number currently possible based on filing deadlines and the fact that No Labels has yet to announce a ticket.
In a briefing with reporters, No Labels officials argued there is a path for a so-called “unity ticket” to win 25 states representing 286 electoral votes. The group cited modeling that showed 34 percent of voters would back a unity ticket in a race between Trump and Biden.
No Labels officials said they don’t plan to decide whether to unveil a ticket and go forward with the effort until after Super Tuesday in March, at which point it will become clearer if the match-up will be Trump vs. Biden.
While critics of the No Labels effort believe the group would siphon votes away from Biden and aid Trump’s reelection, officials told reporters on a call in late December that there has never been such a wide lane for a third party to make a serious run at the White House.
“Americans would have a very strong incentive to get to know that ticket, because they are so profoundly unhappy with the choices they’re otherwise getting,” said Ryan Clancy, the chief strategist for No Labels. “We think they’re desperate for a choice, and if they got a good one, they’d want to learn more about it in short order.”
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