Well, here we are at the start of the 2024 presidential election season. And it feels … strangely familiar.
While a Donald Trump-Joe Biden standoff may seem inevitable, recent history has shown us anything is possible in politics.
A gaggle of GOP candidates are running to beat Trump, who is fighting criminal and civll charges in multiple courts. President Biden is flagging in the polls. In addition to constant questions about his age, our 80-year-old commander-in-chief is now facing an impeachment inquiry.
On the latest episode of the “Say More” podcast, Globe columnist Shirley Leung is joined by her Globe Opinion counterparts: Kimberly Atkins Stohr, Joan Vennochi, and Carine Hajjar about the state of the race.
Hajjar, who has been in New Hampshire to meet Republican hopefuls, has not been impressed.
“I’ll say that New Hampshire right now is the battleground for the most exciting race for second place I’ve ever seen,” deadpanned Hajjar. “I don’t really see anyone having an actual shot at beating the [former] president right now.”
In the GOP field, she was impressed by former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, calling him “incredibly authentic” after backing Trump during most of his presidency, but turning on him to protect democracy and the principles of the pre-Trump Republican Party.
She was troubled most by tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
“Vivek is both impressive and scary in his ability to really resonate with the Trump wing of the party,” she said. “He’s very energetic and so he’s a compelling candidate. But it’s also worrisome for folks who don’t want to see the party go deeper into the MAGA direction.”
On the Democratic side, Vennochi and Atkins Stohr were resigned to Biden as the Democratic candidate but having a robust primary — as some pundits are beginning to suggest because of the president’s age — would be foolish.
“Having a primary is perhaps the dumbest idea ever,” said Atkins Stohr. “Whether it’s an issue of age, whether it’s an issue of Bill Clinton who had other problems, nobody loves their incumbent. They always are looking at the grass being potentially greener some place else. But that doesn’t mean that a primary is the answer.”
As for Biden’s other problems — notably his son Hunter’s gun charge indictment and controversial business dealings — Vennochi said the contretemps gives her flashbacks to 2016 when Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton got embroiled over her use of a private email server, an issue that took on a life of its own.
“Last time I checked Hunter Biden is not running for president,” said Vennochi. “Hunter Biden is a wonderful distraction and the Republicans are masters at that.”
As for whether President Biden is too old to run again, Vennochi agrees with Atkins Stohr that the Democrats are better off with Biden.
“The choices are not great, but this is one election that could actually be more about policy than personality,” said Vennochi. “The issues that Kim laid out that are really important to Democratic voters like abortion, the idea of democracy, the idea of personal freedom, that’s going to outweigh their concerns that Joe Biden shuffles around a little bit, and once in a while trips over a sandbag.”
Shirley Leung is a Business columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.