Published 7th March 2024

The old pugilists are up for a rematch

Settle in for a long fight on the road to the 2024 U.S. Presidential Election

Joe Hockey | The Australian | March 7, 2024

Donald Trump is a huge fan of boxing. However in his old life as a casino owner, when he promoted a boxing rematch between two legendary titleholders, Trump would’ve made sure he was giving his audience the pugilists they wanted.

Today nearly 75 per cent of the American population don’t want a Biden-Trump rematch. Whether Americans turn up to vote in November remains the biggest risk for both candidates.

For the rest of the world this election is going to be a must-watch battle.

If we take out the competing personalities, the policy differ­ences are stark on immigration, abortion, regulation, taxation, energy policies and the role of the US in the world. Differences on Ukraine, Gaza, street crime and border security also will be stark throughout the long campaign.

Super Tuesday is traditionally a decisive moment in an election year. It’s a day that has enjoyed plenty of media attention for nearly 50 years. On this one day in March an assortment of states give their voters the chance to determine the candidates the two major parties put to the ballot in November.

Nothing about Super Tuesday is set in stone yet it determines more than a third of the votes for both parties’ presidential candidates.

Each electoral cycle the states tend to change primary voting dates as party-controlled legislatures try to gain an advantage for their favoured candidate.

For example, Joe Biden pushed South Carolina up the Democratic primary timetable from fourth to first on the list. The President argued it was a better way of recognising the diversity of America’s voting population.

The reality is that South Carolina was decisive for Biden in 2016 and his support there burnt off the competition. This year it locked in Biden’s nomination from almost day one.

The Super Tuesday electoral process is varied and flexible. Some states such as Utah force people to turn up to the local town hall and caucus in a series of small meetings. In some caucuses, candidates such as Donald Trump and Nikki Haley may even have advocates arguing their corner, like a courtroom drama worthy of Judge Judy.

In bigger states such as California, the state holds a primary vote similar to a general election. Citizens lodge a vote in person or by mail. And the balloting may extend to other battles beyond the presidential vote, including cutthroat Senate ballots.

Haley’s run is over. Trump has now won nearly 90 per cent of all available delegates.

If Haley stays on the ballot it’s an irritation for Trump. Her candidature highlights his age and gender. And a proportion of her votes are coming from registered independents and Democrats who want her to damage or even destroy Trump. Her campaign against Trump is too late. The Republicans were cowed against attacking the front-running candidate early on and as a result Trump has become unstoppable.

Haley remaining in the field also delays the flow of money from the Republican National Committee to support Trump’s many legal cases. Once Trump is the candidate the Republicans have to fund his legal fees. Until that day he has to pay his enormous bills and he is not happy about that.

On Tuesday night at Mar-a-Lago Trump barely acknowledged his competitor.

Despite the decisive loss, Haley has put up a reasonable fight. This has given rise to speculation about her future. Haley is too conservative to run as an independent. For example her views on abortion are out of synch with swing voters.

This campaign, however, has lifted her profile and given comfort to Trump haters.

Speculation about her being a vice-presidential candidate is ridiculous. You can bet that Trump will not pick a running mate who represents any sort of competition to him over the next few years.

A second Trump term will look like a new season of The Apprentice. There will be lots of ambitious competition with a fair amount of ceremonial sackings.

Even if Trump doesn’t run as a result of misadventure, the former president’s delegates will never turn to Haley.

Trump now controls the Republican Party, its policies, people and its money. Trump will maintain that influence until he draws his last breath. With that control he will determine who the Republican candidate will be this time and in the next few elections.

For Biden it has been very predictable. He has won the nomination in a canter with a bit of a donkey kick along the way from disgruntled left-wing Democrats who want him to take a tougher approach on Israel. It is essentially the Bernie Sanders end of the party that is screaming for more attention.

Biden is privately and publicly adamant that he is going to run again in November. There is no turning despite polls that indicate American voters generally are very unenthusiastic about their President.

A recent New York Times poll indicated that two-thirds of Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction. In the same poll 61 per cent of Americans disapproved of Biden’s performance. These are dire numbers.

It is still early days but we now have the longest election campaign in modern US history. Normally the non-incumbent party delivers a robust fight for the nomination right up until the vast majority of votes are cast. But Trump’s decisive victories mean that in the next few days the internal battle in the Republican Party is over.

As we watch the septuagenarian and octogenarian getting back in the ring for a repeat title fight, be aware that anything can happen during the next few months.

The biggest risk is that people will be so appalled at the pugilists that they will look elsewhere. If that’s the case the current titleholder is in a fair bit of trouble.

Published by The Australian.

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