The year of America’s next presidential election has arrived at last, which can only mean one thing: speculation will continue to ramp up about who will be the next person to occupy the White House.
President Joe Biden is all but a lock to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for the second time, but began campaign season by facing down a long list of competitors. This pack is decisively led by former President Donald Trump, but two other solid GOP contenders are looking to usurp the lead from the former president. Several independent candidates remain in the race as well.
With the election now just 10 months away, pollsters and political scientists are heating up the debate about who will win the 270 electoral votes needed to earn a seat in the Oval Office. Who do the experts believe will be the next president of the United States?
Who do the polls say will win the election?
Biden and Trump remain the two consistent frontrunners for their respective parties — and are mostly neck-and-neck. When it comes to actual figures, though, a Jan. 2 Morning Consult poll of 6,816 voters shows Trump leading Biden 42% to 41%. This is a similar margin that was found by a Jan. 12 YouGov/CBS News poll of 1,906 voters which saw Trump leading Biden 50% to 48%. A pair of Suffolk University/USA Today polls of 1,000 voters, released on Dec. 26, also found Trump leading 37% to 34% and 44% to 43%, respectively.
So if taking into account just the poll results by themselves, which all have margins of error under 4%, it seems that pollsters are predicting Donald Trump to return to the White House in 2024, and his dominant victory in Iowa’s GOP caucuses shows that he is well on his way to being crowned the GOP’s nominee. However, the aforementioned neck-and-neck aspect of the race means polling could possibly sway. Several other recent polls found Biden tied with the former president, including many of the same outlets that published other polls with Trump in the lead.
A Dec. 26 Morning Consult poll of 4,000 voters saw Biden and Trump tied with 42% of the vote each. This was consistent with a pair of YouGov/Economist polls on Jan. 2 and Jan. 9 that showed them tied at 44% and 43%, respectively. And while Biden has been either trailing or tied with Trump in most recent polls, a Dec. 23 Morning Consult poll of 4,000 voters showed Biden leading Trump 43% to 42%, as did a Jan. 7 Morning Consult poll of 6,367 voters.
Out of the seven most recent head-to-head matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s polling aggregate, Trump is either leading or tied with Biden in all of them. Trump’s largest margin came from a Jan. 3 ActiVote poll that found him leading Biden 54% to 46%. However, unlike the aforementioned polls that were calculated over the course of a few days, this poll was taken over three months from October to January. It also had a smaller sample size of just 841 voters.
Who do the pundits say will win the election?
While the polls may tell one story, political analysts, pundits and experts can tell another. Many who study politics seem to think that despite Trump leading in most polls now, it will ultimately be Biden who will secure a second term in office.
Biden is “seen as a moderate figure who has not transformed a politically polarized country,” Fox News’ Juan Williams opined for The Hill, and this “has contributed to his low approval numbers in 2023.” However, Biden’s low poll numbers “will be out the door in a one-on-one, 2024 rematch with Trump,” Williams added.
“The Democrats have the power to make this year’s race into a referendum on Trump rather than Biden,” Williams said. “With the stock market up, unemployment down, wages rising, inflation slowing and the U.S. standing tall against Russia and China, Biden has a record to persuade swing voters.”
Biden could also win reelection because “the strength of the president’s record is only matched by the strength of his party,” Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg wrote for MSNBC. Democrats have “won more votes in seven of the past eight presidential elections, something no party has done in modern American history,” Rosenberg noted, and in both of the prior two years “prevented the historical down ballot struggle of the party in power and had two remarkably successful elections.” He added that polling numbers “[continue] to overly discount Trump’s historic baggage and MAGA’s repeated electoral failures.”
Some, however, still feel that Trump could return to the White House — case in point, his dominating victory in Iowa’s Republican caucuses, which is a “stunning show of strength after leaving Washington in disgrace,” Stephen Collinson wrote for CNN. His rise is particularly notable because “losing one-term presidents almost never mount subsequent successful primary campaigns,” Collinson added, much less landslides — Trump won every county in Iowa except one, which he lost by just a single vote.
Others, still, say that neither of these men will occupy the White House next year. “Whether Biden can sustain his viability and make it to Election Day is anyone’s guess,” computer scientist and election forecaster Sheldon H. Adelson wrote for The Hill. Democrats “will realize that the sooner they pull the plug on his candidacy, the more time they will have to prepare the campaign for his replacement,” Adelson added. Trump, meanwhile, “can be more easily contrasted with the one or two left standing, making it straightforward for voters to see what they are getting with him — and the risks of him gaining the nomination,” Adelson said.
The data seems to suggest that “the likelihood of a Biden-Trump rematch is highly unlikely, and that either of them winning the White House is small,” Adelson concluded.
Who else is in play?
Beyond Biden and Trump, the other candidate whose name seems to be gaining traction is Nikki Haley. The former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador has been rising in the polls in recent weeks and has received a key endorsement from the Koch network. As a result, many have looked to her as the potential person to supersede Trump as the GOP candidate.
“Haley gets the best marks on being seen as ‘likable’ and ‘reasonable,’ and she runs nearly even with Trump on being ‘prepared,'” CBS News reported. The latter is notable in that Haley is beating Trump on “preparedness” marks even though he has already been president once.
While Haley had superseded Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in plenty of polls, it was DeSantis who finished the night as runner-up in the Iowa caucus, garnering 21.2% to Haley’s 19.1%. However, DeSantis has been plagued by a problematic campaign and low voter enthusiasm. Haley is “still in a strong position to rise in New Hampshire and her home state,” The New York Times reported. She could potentially upset Trump in New Hampshire due to his weakness among voters with a college degree. However, the Times noted that both Haley and DeSantis faced an uphill battle trying to change the seemingly inevitable Trump vs. Biden rematch.