Two Paths, One Nation: The 2024 Race for the White House

It is all but certain; a Trump-Biden rematch is to be expected for this November’s 2024 U.S. Presidential election.

It is all but certain; a Trump-Biden rematch is to be expected for this November’s 2024 U.S. Presidential election.  The irony however is that neither candidate has so far polled with high favorability ratings.  President Biden concluded 2023 with a 34% approval rating – his lowest assessment since taking office.[1]  Concerns persist over Biden’s potential re-election bid at the age of 81 compounded by voter dissatisfaction with his management of the economy and immigration policies.

While Trump continues to amass support among Republican primary voters and remains the leading contender for the GOP nomination in 2024, recent polling indicates that 63% of American voters continue to hold an unfavorable view of the former president.[2]    Similarly, in April 2023, 60% of Americans polled expressed opposition to Trump’s re-election bid, while 70% believed Biden should not seek a second term. [3]

Such data raises the question, if neither candidate is wildly popular, why is the U.S. experiencing 2020 deja vu?  In the case of President Biden, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), along with wealthy donors, [4]  largely stands in solidarity behind him, highlighting his array of legislative achievements since assuming office. These accomplishments include the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the Inflation Reduction Act—representing the largest investment in climate and clean energy in American history—and the recent enactment of the student debt relief bill, among other notable successes.

There also remains a lack of serious primary challengers for Biden in 2024 as it is often a steep (and expensive) climb to run against an incumbent president.  In 2024, the election will come down to a handful of swing states which will determine the next president’s electoral win.  Currently, 79%[5] of Democratic voters in six decisive swing states approve of Biden’s handling of the Presidency, leaving little room for new contenders so late in the game.

Despite his mounting legal challenges, former President Trump maintains a widespread lead over his Republican rivals running for the 2024 GOP primary – a list that has all but diminished.  A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that among republican voters, 61% intend to vote for Trump if the former President runs against Biden in 2024.  Meanwhile, Trump’s closest competitor, Former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley polled at 11% among likely GOP voters.[6]  

Trump’s projection of perceived ‘strength’ continues to attract voters, reminiscent of his appeal in the 2016 election.  MAGA Republicans also continue to remain in denial of the 2020 Presidential election results and instead have adopted Trump’s theory that the election was ‘stolen.’  Entrance polling taken during the January 2024 Iowa GOP caucus found that 90% of Republican voters believe President Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election.[7]  Following an investigation one month after the 2020 race, former Attorney General, William Barr stated the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, despite Trump’s claims.[8]  Nonetheless, the unsubstantiated claims of election fraud have continued to create widespread distrust with the American electoral process fueling partisan polarization.

This divisive manipulation of public sentiment has fostered an ‘us-versus-them’ mentality, deepening the political chasm in America. Trump loyalists maintain that his re-election would serve as validation, vindicating them against perceived injustices and betrayals by the Washington establishment. While loyalty to Trump is often likened to a cult-like devotion, his supporters believe he alone possesses the ability to address America’s fundamental challenges, spanning immigration to employment.

An Administration of ‘Firsts’

Undoubtedly, a second Trump term would be an Administration of ‘firsts.’  If elected, Trump would be sworn into office as the first President who has not only been impeached twice but also the first former President in U.S. history to have been criminally charged in a court of law.  If the election were held today, Trump would also be the first American President sworn into office facing 91 felony counts comprised of 44 federal charges and 47 state charges. 

The counts, which stem from four separate criminal cases[9] include the Washington D.C election interference case following Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 Presidential election results culminating with the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.  The former President also faces charges stemming from the classified documents case in Florida, falsifying business records in New York state – which may cost him his business license, and the election subversion case in the state of Georgia.  While most candidates spend the months leading up to an election crisscrossing the nation attending campaign events, the former President will spend a large portion of 2024 commuting from one courthouse to another pleading his innocence.

Contextual Analysis of a Second Trump Term

By provoking a sense of fear, anger, and revenge, Trump’s 2024 campaign rhetoric aims to inflame American voters’ frustrations with President Biden’s handling of the economy, the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, and the ongoing immigration crisis on America’s southern border.  Biden meanwhile continues to plead with voters as he did in 2020, that America’s values and the future of democracy is on the ballot yet again in 2024.  As the country is experiencing one of its most divisive eras of modern history, it is necessary to juxtapose both Trump and Biden’s proposed key policy initiatives and their potential impact on the health of American democracy.


Immigration has long remained a contentious, partisan issue in U.S. politics with each political party supporting starkly contrasting ideologies on what immigration policy should entail.  The Trump administration imposed controversial immigration policies whereby humanitarian protections for immigrants and asylum seekers were severely compromised during his first term.  Children attempting to illegally enter the country at America’s southern border were intentionally separated from their parents as a result of the Trump Administrations ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy.  While more than 3,900 children were separated from their parents from 2017 to 2021,[10] nearly 1,000 minors were yet to be reunited with their families as of February 2023[11] – despite Biden’s Justice Department rescinding Trump’s immigration policy once taking office in 2021.

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden emphasized his Administration would enact a humane and realistic approach towards immigration at America’s southern border.  As of January 2024, nearly one million migrants have entered the U.S. under the guise of a key concept of Biden’s border management strategy known as ‘parole authority.’[12]  The concept allows the executive branch to take decisive action on granting noncitizens temporary entry into the United States on the basis of humanitarian purposes, particularly those escaping conflict or war – such as in the case of Afghanistan and Ukraine, or those fleeing from political or economic crises. 

While the objective was aimed to limit the number of individuals attempting to enter the US illegally, the policy has triggered Senate Republicans to hold the President’s funding for Ukraine hostage until Democrats commit to stricter border control policies.  Bending to the will of Republicans – especially during a campaign season will be a tough sell for the President who is already facing strong headwinds among democratic voters.  Any decision to place further restrictions on migrants runs the risk of putting the President at odds with progressive voters.  98% of liberal, far left leaning democrats voted for Biden in the 2020 election[13] – a key, and potentially decisive wing of the Democratic party. 

For Trump’s 2024 re-boot, the former President has proposed sweeping raids of illegal immigrants currently living in the United States, who would then be held in newly constructed mass detention camps and subject to speedy deportation.  With a target of deporting 1 million immigrants per year, Trump’s team is devising a new immigration policy that would ease bureaucratic red tape, forgoing immigrants’ rights to due-process hearings.[14] 

Trump is also aiming to implement an Executive Order on day one of a second term that would overturn the long-standing automatic birthright citizenship policy for children born of illegal immigrants in the United States.  Trump labeled the practice as a ‘magnet,’[15] that entices illegal immigrants to flood into the country to ensure their children obtain birthright protections and a guarantee of U.S. citizenship. 

To deter illegal crossings across the border, Trump has also vowed to further extend the border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected for a second term.  During his administration, only 452 miles (727 km) of border wall was built along the 1,954 miles (3144 km) U.S.-Mexico border, with much of the construction appropriated towards repairing existing wall.  In total, only 40 miles (64 km) of new wall was constructed during Trump’s first term,[16] paid for by the U.S. government – not Mexico, as Trump had promised.

In addition to further deterring illegal immigrants from entering the United States, Trump is seeking to reimpose and expand his controversial 2017 Muslim ban which President Biden overturned on his first day in office.  In his second term, Trump has said he will attempt to expand the ban to include barring refugees from Gaza, and impose ‘ideological screening’ for all immigrants attempting to enter the country.[17]

The Youth Vote

Biden on the other hand is facing mounting backlash from younger voters over his handling of the war in Gaza.  Nearly 75% of democratic voters between the ages of 18 and 29 disapprove of Biden’s strategy surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict, according to a recent New York Times/Siena College poll.[18]   This key demographic remains vital for Biden’s re-election hopes.  In 2020, 65% of young voters ages 18 to 24 cast their ballot for Biden – 11% more than any other age group.[19]  Both Republicans and Democrats are fiercely vying for the youth vote, particularly Gen Z voters between the ages of 18 and 27 who will account for nearly 40.8 million votes in 2024.  Likewise, 8.3 million new voters will become eligible to cast their ballot in the 2024 election.[20] 

A concern for Republicans is that the core priorities of younger voters tend to align more closely to the Democratic party than the GOP.  Policy issues including social justice, gun control, and climate change have all inspired youth activism and resulted in record breaking voter turnout during the 2018 midterms, with 31% of people under the age of 30 taking part in the election.[21]  The 2022 midterms witnessed the second highest youth turnout in nearly three decades, at 27% of voters aged 18 to 29.[22]

One main factor driving young voter turnout is that today’s youth tend to be more well-informed about current events due to their extensive engagement with online platforms, consuming their news and information in real-time.  38% percent of young voters admit to spending 3 to 5 hours online per day, while 29% spend more than 5 hours.  This media consumption has allowed young voters to shape their own political perspective when it comes to identifying with a partisan affiliation – and at a far younger age compared to previous generations.

Reconstructing the Federal Government

Potentially the most controversial agenda item of a Trump 2.0 term is his intention to reconstruct the federal government and consolidate the executive branch’s power.   In 2020 before leaving office, Trump issued an Executive Order commonly referred to as ‘Schedule F’ which allowed the President to strip career government officials of their civil service union protections, essentially making it easier for Presidents to replace them.  Similar to Trump’s Muslim ban, President Biden rescinded the executive order after taking office in 2021. 

Detailing a 10-point agenda plan titled, ‘Shattering the Deep State and Return Power to the American People’ on his campaign website, Trump has stated his intention to revive Schedule F if re-elected, granting the executive branch with the authority to reclassify up to 50,000 federal employees. 

This federal purging presumably in key agencies including the FBI and the Justice Department will serve as a means of reprisal for those who pursued criminal investigations against him and his businesses.  Point no.2 of the plan aims at eradicating the intelligence community, stating his intention to ‘overhaul federal departments and agencies, firing all of the corrupt actors in our National Security and Intelligence apparatus.’[23]  This recalibration of the checks and balances of the federal government whose objective is to ensure a separation of powers establishes a precarious precedent for future administrations to follow suit.

Foreign Policy

In addition to playing a crucial role in promoting stability and security across Europe, the strategic partnerships forged by the NATO alliance reinforces America’s military capabilities abroad and remains invaluable to U.S. national security.  During his administration, former President Trump often publicly scrutinized NATO members for not meeting the alliance’s defense spending guidelines, equivalent to of 2% of GDP.  As a result of Trump’s unorthodox pressure tactics, eleven out of 30 NATO members hit their 2% target, reaching a collective €930 billion on defense spending in 2020 – a 2.7% increase from 2019. [24]

More recently on the campaign trail, the former president has been signaling his intentions to reassess NATO’s mandate if re-elected.  During a Fox News town hall in January, Trump refused to commit to keep the U.S. in the alliance if re-elected, claiming the EU exploited the U.S. on trade and military funding.[25]  Meanwhile, President Biden signed into law last December a rule that prohibits a U.S. President from unilaterally withdrawing from the alliance.  The mandate, which was including in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, states “no president shall suspend, terminate, denounce or withdraw from NATO without either an act of Congress or the approval of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate.”  Trump’s position on NATO member’s military spending – however controversial, highlighted the importance of burden sharing when it comes to transatlantic collective security.

In a stark contrast in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, the Biden Administration reinvigorated U.S. relations with Europe, doubling down on a U.S. commitment to multilateralism by reengaging with international alliances and strengthening the NATO alliance.  In the midst of an unforeseen 21st century land war in Europe, Biden’s reinvigoration of a transatlantic partnership reiterated America’s commitment to cooperative defense. 

Climate Change

The U.S. has long been recognized as a leader in global climate change policy as a result of its extensive involvement in negotiating and crafting international climate agreements including the Kyoto Protocol in 1992 and the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015.  Despite being the world’s second largest carbon emitter, the U.S. government plays a significant role in allocating funding for the research and development of clean energy solutions and climate related technologies.

Expectations remain low that a second Trump term would result in any substantial progress on climate policy considering the former president pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accords in 2017 and has often referred to the climate crisis as a ‘hoax.’  There are also growing concerns that if Republicans take back control of the Senate in 2024, cracks may begin to appear in Biden’s landmark legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the largest U.S. investment in history including $370 billion in tax incentives and subsidies aimed at combatting the climate crisis and reducing energy costs for American taxpayers. 

Labeled by Trump as ‘the biggest tax hike in American history,’[26] the IRA passed solely along party lines without a single Republican from the House or the Senate voting for the historical legislation – which now appears to be in Trump’s sights.   On the upside –unlike Executive Orders, reversing legislation is a daunting task that requires an act of Congress.  Considering downplaying the climate crisis has long remained a Republican talking point, any talk of gutting the IRA for now, may be little more than political theater. 

In 2023, the IRA facilitated $372 billion in new, large-scale clean energy investments and created 211,000 new jobs[27] – a trend that is expected to continue in the years to come.  The IRA’s ten-year subsidy program has remained popular with investors – particularly in red states.  Republican-controlled districts have far outweighed clean energy investments compared to their democratic counterparts due to their large acres of untouched land, affordable labor, and attractive state tax breaks and subsidy incentives.  Since 2022, Republican districts have profited from more than $180 billion in cleantech projects compared to roughly $10 billion in Democratic blue states.[28]

Conclusion: Potential Hurdles

Despite Donald Trump’s enduring popularity among Republican voters, the former president faces numerous hurdles in his race to back to the Oval Office.  In addition to his numerous legal troubles, Trump has recently faced setbacks with his eligibility for primary ballots in two states. In December 2023, Colorado’s Supreme Court deemed Trump ineligible for inclusion on the state’s 2024 presidential primary ballot due to his involvement in the January 6th insurrection. Subsequently, Maine’s Secretary of State, Shenna Bellows, similarly barred Trump from appearing on Maine’s primary ballot, citing his post-2020 election actions. While Trump’s legal team has initiated an appeal process with the U.S. Supreme Court, these rulings could set a precedent for other states considering similar measures.

Meanwhile, democrats continue to express tepid enthusiasm regarding Biden’s management of the economy, healthcare affordability, and the surge in gun violence. [29]  Despite this, disheartened and uninspired Democratic voters are indicating that in the event of a Trump-Biden rematch, they are more inclined to vote for Biden—albeit primarily as a strategic move to prevent Trump’s reelection, as revealed by a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll. [30]  Nearly half of the Democrats surveyed indicated that their potential vote for Biden would primarily reflect their opposition “against Donald Trump and his policies,” in contrast to 38% who stated their vote would be driven by support for Biden and his actual policies.

America’s bitter divide, both partisan infighting and across the aisle only serves to demoralize the American public and its trust in government, while simultaneously creating a host of global ramifications.  The U.S.’s adversaries would undoubtedly relish in a demise of America’s image as the beacon of hope for budding democracies around the world.  Following the numerous failed attempts last summer to elect a new speaker of the house which left the chamber without leadership for nearly three weeks, Florida Representative Michael Waltz – a Republican, told reporters “Authoritarian regimes all over the world are pointing to what is going on in the House of Representatives and saying Look at the messiness of democracy, look at how it doesn’t work, how it can’t function—and in contrast to their authoritarian regimes.”[31]

The Economist’s ‘World Ahead’ outlook, released last November, characterized a potential second term for the former President as a validation that would ‘confirm his most destructive instincts about power,’ adding that ‘because America will have voted him in while knowing the worst, its moral authority would decline.’[32]  Even despite the tragic events of January 6th, supporters of the MAGA movement persist in their allegiance to Trump, who remains unrepentant in his efforts to normalize autocratic behavior and endorse hate speech, racism, and xenophobia.  

At every opportunity, the former president continues to undermine constitutional norms and the rule of law – America’s foundational principles that govern the functioning of the government and society.  The most significant casualty in the aftermath of a Trump 2024 election win just may be the enduring legacy of the U.S. Constitution.

[1] ‘President’s Rating Hits Record Low,’ December 18, 2023.  Monmouth University,

[2] Andy Cerda.  July 21, 2023.  ‘Little change in Americans’ views of Trump over the past year,’ Pew Research, Center,

[3] Jonathan Allen.  April 25, 2023.  ‘Biden vs. Trump 2024 would be the rematch nobody wants,’ NBC News,

[4] Ted Johnson.  December 10, 2023.  ‘Joe Biden’s Los Angeles Fundraising Swing Brings In More Than $15 Million, Jeffrey Katzenberg Says,’ Deadline,

[5] ‘Cross-Tabs: October 2023 Times/Siena Poll of the 2024 Battlegrounds,’ November 5, 2023.  New York Times,

[6] Andy Sullivan.  December 12, 2023.  ‘Trump holds wide lead in Republican 2024 nominating contest, Reuters/Ipsos poll shows,’ Reuters,

[7] ‘Iowa caucus highlights: Trump wins, DeSantis takes second in weather-impacted 2024 Republican contest,’ January 16, 2024.  NBC News,

[8] Sarah N. Lynch and Brad Heath.  December 2, 2020.  ‘Barr sees no sign of major U.S. vote fraud despite Trump’s claims,’ Reuters,

[9] Amy O’Kruk and Curt Merrill.  December 11, 2023.  ‘Donald Trump’s criminal cases, in one place,’ CNN,

[10] Myah Ward.  August 6, 2021.  ‘At least 3,900 children separated from families under Trump ‘zero tolerance’ policy, task force finds,’ Politico,

[11] Ted Hesson.  February 3, 2023.  ‘Close to 1,000 migrant children separated by Trump yet to be reunited with parents,’ Reuters,

[12] Camilo Montoya-Galvez.  January 22, 2024.  ‘Biden administration has admitted more than 1 million migrants into U.S. under parole policy Congress is considering restricting,’ CBS News,

[13] Ruth Igielnik, Scott Keeter and Hannah Hartig.  June 30, 2021.  ‘Behind Biden’s 2020 Victory,’ Pew Research Center,

[14] Charlie Savage, Maggie Haberman, and Jonathan Swan.  November 11, 2023.  ‘Sweeping Raids, Giant Camps and Mass Deportations: Inside Trump’s 2025 Immigration Plans,’ New York Times,

[15] Ted Hesson.  May 31, 2023.  ‘Trump vows to end birthright citizenship for children of immigrants in US illegally,’ Reuters,

[16] Sabrina Rodriquez.  January 12, 2021.  ‘Trump’s partially built ‘big, beautiful wall,’ Politico,

[17] Jill Colvin.  November 12, 2023.  ‘Trump’s plans if he returns to the White House include deportation raids, tariffs and mass firings,’ Associated Press,

[18] Jonathan Weisman, Ruth Igielnik and Alyce McFadden.  December 21, 2023.  ‘Poll Finds Wide Disapproval of Biden on Gaza, and Little Room to Shift Gears,’ New York Times,

[19] Abigail Johnson Hess.  November 18, 2020.  ‘The 2020 election shows Gen Z’s voting power for years to come,’ CNBC,

[20] ‘41 Million Members of Gen Z Will Be Eligible to Vote in 2024,’ October 18, 2023.  Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), Tufts University,

[21] Ashley Lopez.  November 10, 2022.  ‘Turnout among young voters was the second highest for a midterm in past 30 years,’ NPR,

[22] ‘The Youth Vote in 2022,’ Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), Tufts University,

[23] ‘Agenda47: President Trump’s Plan to Dismantle the Deep State and Return Power to the American People,’ March 21, 2023.  Donald J. Trump,

[24] Alexandra Brzozowski.  March 16, 2021.  ‘US pressure brings about rise in NATO defence spending, despite pandemic,’ Euractiv,

[25] Namita Singh.  January 11, 2024.  ‘Trump refuses to commit to Nato in second term at Fox News town hall,’ The Independent,

[26] Jamie Smyth and Aime Williams.  November 23, 2023.  ‘Donald Trump would gut Joe Biden’s landmark IRA climate law if elected,’ Financial Times,

[27] Laurie Stone.  December 10, 2023.  ‘The Top 12 Climate Developments of 2023,’ Rocky Mountain Institute,,almost%2050%2C000%20new%20manufacturing%20jobs.

[28] Amanda Chu, Oliver Roeder, Myles McCormick.  August 13, 2023.  ‘Republican districts dominate US clean technology investment boom,’ Financial Times,

[29] ‘Inflation, Health Costs, Partisan Cooperation Among the Nation’s Top Problems,’ June 21, 2023.  Pew Research Center,

[30] Jason Lange and James Oliphant.  November 16, 2023.  ‘Biden voters say more motivated to stop Trump than to support president-Reuters/Ipsos,’ Reuters,

[31] Philp Elliott.  January 6, 2023.  ‘America’s Adversaries Are Loving the Drama of the House Speaker Fight,’ Time Magazine,

[32] ‘Donald Trump poses the biggest danger to the world in 2024,’ November 16, 2023.  The Economist,

Gina Bou Serhal
Gina Bou Serhal
Gina Bou Serhal is a researcher at the Strategic Studies Department at Trends Research & Advisory, Dubai.