How (Not) to Lose Voters: Pre-Election Campaigns of Biden and Trump

 By Dana Hunda

2 MB

Key Takeaways

  • Primary Dynamics: The Republican primary quickly narrowed to Donald Trump as the sole leading candidate after early victories, while Joe Biden appears as the main contender for the Democrats.
  • Trump’s Campaign and Controversies: Donald Trump maintains strong support from his base despite ongoing controversies and legal challenges. His campaign leverages familiar themes from previous runs, such as strong immigration policies and economic promises.
  • Legal and Public Challenges for Trump: Despite facing numerous legal issues and a mixed public perception, Trump’s core Republican support remains stable, with significant backing for his policy propositions and leadership style.
  • Biden’s Performance and Public Approval: President Biden’s performance is seen as satisfactory by Democrats, but overall approval remains below the 50% threshold usually indicative of strong reelection prospects. Mostly, voter concerns lie over his handling of immigration, the economy, and foreign policy.
  • Election Uncertainties: The potential success of both candidates is hard to predict due to fluctuating voter sentiments, the influence of key issues, and the volatile nature of political alignments.
  • Strategic Factors for Election Success: The election outcome will likely hinge on the effectiveness of the candidates’ campaigns, their ability to navigate controversies, and their success in mobilizing voter support amidst a polarized electorate.

This year, the season of primaries has reopened in the USA. Candidates must win or achieve good results in the primaries or caucuses of each state to obtain party delegates and participate in the November elections.

Although the primaries will take place over half a year, over 70% of the delegates will be chosen by the end of March. States can still change the dates and rules of the elections, adding an element of unpredictability to the competition and forcing candidates to be active.

Initially, among the Republicans, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswami, and Donald Trump were leading. However, later, two candidates dropped out, and Haley withdrew after losing in her own state and at the national level.

So, there remains only one Republican candidate who received the most support among voters – Donald Trump. And currently, he has only one opponent who could pose a threat to his plans for victory.

On the Democratic side, the most popular candidate is Joe Biden, who, like Trump, has a chance to go for a second term.

But is it really so? Will Trump, whom many seem to support, still be able to win, or will Joe Biden be able to maintain leadership for another four years?

This article offers an overview of the presidential candidates’ election campaigns, an analysis of the main reasons for their unpopularity among the wider electorate, and the prospects of successful results.

Donald Trump – Guaranteed Winner or Loud Fiasco?


The first state that attracted everyone’s attention was Iowa. On January 15, the season officially opened there, and the first primaries were held. In these primaries, Trump achieved an undeniable victory, receiving the votes of 20 delegates out of 40. In all subsequent primaries and party caucuses (New Hampshire, Nevada, Virgin Islands, and another 15 states on Super Tuesday), which had already taken place by February 11, Trump also won with a significant lead, leaving his competitors behind.

Such “obviousness” of the results right from the start forced many candidates to drop out of the race in the first months.

However, given the huge number of contradictions and fatal mistakes surrounding the main favorite of Republican Party voters, there is some dissonance. To understand the reasons behind his enormous support, we need to consider his approach to the 2016 elections, revisit his defeat in 2020, and compare it with the situation we observe today.

In June 2015, Trump announced his candidacy for president, using the slogan “Make America Great Again” on red caps, which became iconic. He promised to create jobs, repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), increase coal production, reduce the influence of lobbyists, withdraw from the Paris Agreement, impose tariffs on imports, build a wall on the border, and ban Muslim immigration.

Positioning himself as an outsider, Trump garnered support from conservatives, including the Tea Party movement. During his campaign, the opponents highlighted numerous controversies stemming from what they deemed provocative remarks. They emphasized his remarks, which were often perceived as racist and sexist, and criticized his reluctance to condemn groups like the Ku Klux Klan. These issues fueled concerns among many about his stance on equality and justice.

Despite the criticism, he won the nomination from the Republican Party, heavily targeting his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump’s threat to imprison Clinton in the event of his victory in the elections was unprecedented in US political history.

And although more people voted for Clinton (65.8 million votes), due to the US voting system, Trump (62.9 million votes) won the 2016 election.

In 2020, Trump secured the nomination without significant competition, and the party decided to reuse its 2016 platform. He campaigned based on promises regarding job creation, developing a COVID-19 vaccine, and immigration reform and criticized the policies of Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

In the wake of a highly contested election, the incumbent candidate raised questions about the legitimacy of the results. This led to a series of legal challenges—totaling 60 lawsuits—seeking to reassess the electoral outcomes. Efforts were also made to engage higher judicial authorities, including the Supreme Court, to review the process. During a significant rally on January 6, which saw attendance from diverse groups, Trump repeated concerns regarding electoral integrity. This event coincided with rising tensions that culminated in a breach of the congressional premises.

Within days, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” marking the first time a US president had been impeached twice (the first was in 2019). However, Trump was acquitted as the Senate failed to reach the necessary two-thirds majority to convict him.

Sowhat can we conclude?

Trump’s campaign strategy involves a set of policies that have been met with scrutiny, particularly in relation to minority rights and adherence to international accords. The rhetoric has often been characterized as bold and has sparked widespread discussion. Criticism directed at counterparts from the Democratic Party has been its consistent element, alongside an assertive approach to the electoral process. The campaign has also been active in seeking judicial review of election results and has engaged its audience in a manner that some interpret as strongly encouraging activism.

It’s also important to mention the legal cases in which the former president is the main accused. Today, Donald Trump has become the first president of the United States ever to face criminal responsibility. Negative news mentioning the former president’s name appears with remarkable regularity. Therefore, ratings may decline, not rise or remain stable, unless he learns to use the courtroom as a PR platform.

According to recent polls (March 2-4), 79% of Republican Party members support Trump. This figure has remained stable over the past year despite active criminal investigations and questionable statements about NATO and Ukraine, which Trump announced on February 10.

However, only 43% of American voters (data as of March 24-26) view Trump positively. Also, a clear majority of Americans (66%) believe that Donald Trump should not have immunity from criminal prosecution for actions he took during his presidency. By the way, a federal appeals court recently reached the same conclusion.

Views on Trump’s attempts to remain president after the 2020 election have essentially remained unchanged from what they were a year and a half ago during public hearings on the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021: 45% believe he acted illegally, 32% unethically, and 23% believe he did nothing wrong.

On the same issue, about half of Republicans (49%) claim that Trump did nothing wrong after the last presidential election, 40% believe his actions were unethical, and only 11% believe they were illegal.

Americans generally agree on what to expect from Trump after this year’s general elections, regardless of whether they end in his victory or defeat. If the Republican Party nominates Trump and he loses, most believe he will refuse to concede again. And if he wins, there is widespread anticipation that he may seek to leverage the authority of the White House to pursue certain actions. These actions could potentially involve exploring avenues for self-pardon in the face of federal convictions, initiating federal inquiries into political adversaries, and introducing a range of policy adjustments. Among the speculated changes are initiatives such as addressing the status of millions of undocumented immigrants, revisiting the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and potentially reshaping the composition of the federal workforce in alignment with his policy agenda.

Among Trump supporters, about half (48%) of Americans say they support Trump’s attempt to mass deport undocumented immigrants, while 39% support repealing and replacing Obamacare. About a third want him to fire federal workers who oppose his policies (34%), instruct the Justice Department to investigate competitors (31%), pardon people convicted on January 6 (31%), or pardon himself (28%).

Within the Republican Party, these ideas are more popular, with a majority saying they support Trump using the presidency to pardon himself and investigate his competitors. The majority of 78% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they support Trump deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, 68% would support him repealing and replacing Obamacare, and 62% would support his firing federal workers. Others say they support Trump pardoning himself (54%), pardoning people involved in the January 6 attacks (54%), or initiating investigations into his opponents (51%).

What is behind the stability of Trump’s support?

In general, three assumptions can be made:

Trump is benefiting from economic nostalgia among certain demographics, including young people, Latino voters, and working-class Americans. Despite the current administration’s efforts to highlight positive economic indicators, many of these voters perceive the economy as stronger under Trump, seeing his policies as more beneficial to their interests.

Also, Trump’s favorability is being restored with his radical statements on topics that are painful for Republican voters, such as migration and military aid to warring countries.

Trump’s improved standing can be attributed, among other things, to a quieter campaign, muted media coverage, and general public detachment. Unlike his previous campaigns, Trump’s current bid for the presidency has attracted relatively less attention, with fewer controversial statements and rallies dominating the news cycle. In addition, fewer Americans follow political news closely compared to previous election cycles, potentially contributing to a more favorable perception of Trump.

Joe Biden – voter support and chances against Trump

Biden’s arrival in power can be called quite successful. He was the main favorite in the 2019 elections, and the Democrats managed to gain huge support in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

However, is he still a favorite now?

Comparing the approval ratings of the two presidents, Biden’s was 40% in the 164th week of his term, 0.1 percentage point lower than the previous week, and Trump’s approval rating was 44.8% at the same point in his term, 0.2 percentage points lower than the previous week.

The average approval rating of President Biden for the entire term is 43.9%, with weekly figures ranging from 38.4% to 54.4%. At the time of Trump’s presidency, his average approval rating for the entire term was 42.2%, with weekly figures ranging from 37.3% to 45.9%.

Based on recent polls (March 24-26), we can see the following dynamics: approval by Americans of President Joe Biden’s effectiveness ranges from 40-42%, which is below the 50% threshold that usually leads to re-election for incumbent presidents.

Additionally, Biden registers low approval ratings for addressing five key issues facing the United States, including a new low of 28% for immigration and ratings ranging from 30% to 40% for the situation in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas, foreign policy, the economy, and the situation in Ukraine.

Approval of how Biden manages the economy has modestly increased by four points among US adults since November, while his ratings on other issues have not changed significantly compared to previous figures in November (and August for immigration). Positive economic news from the United States on several fronts continued during Gallup’s survey period from February 1 to 20, including low unemployment, low inflation, and record stock market prices.

Democrat voters mostly approve of how Biden manages the economy (75%), the situation in Ukraine (72%), and foreign affairs (69%). Almost a majority of Democrats approve of the president’s decisions on immigration (55%) and the situation in the Middle East (51%). However, Biden’s ratings have fallen regarding the situation in the Middle East (-9 points) and in Ukraine (-6 points), as well as regarding immigration (-7 points).

Few Republicans express approval of Biden on any of the issues surveyed, with immigration (3%) and the economy (4%) being the worst, while the situation in the Middle East (17%) and in Ukraine (16%) are the best. Republican ratings of Biden’s handling of immigration fell by six points since August. A recent Gallup poll showed that immigration, in particular, is a major reason why those who disapprove of Biden negatively assess his performance.

But why is voter support gradually decreasing and holding at a relatively low level? 

One problem with Biden is his age (81 years as of November 20), as well as the low rating of his work on certain issues as president by the American public.

Regarding the former, this issue serves as an opportunity for opponents to remind voters of Biden’s poor health and age. “If you’re too old to stand trial, you’re too old to be president,” said Alex Pfeiffer, one of Donald Trump’s advisors, after reading a report by Special Prosecutor Robert Gore detailing numerous memory lapses by Joe Biden.

Getty Images

As for dissatisfaction with his policies, in recent years, the following “claims” can be highlighted: worsening of the childcare crisis, increased dependence of the US on Russian uranium, attempts to circumvent the Supreme Court’s decision on student loan forgiveness, inability to effectively address anti-Semitism and provide Ukraine with a clear path to NATO membership.

Biden is also criticized for inaction regarding a Chinese spy drone that spent a week in US airspace and for failing to provide a proper response to attacks by pro-Iranian groups against US troops. Specific criticism is directed at the ineffective immigration policy, which has led to a record number of illegal crossings at the southern border.

Considerable attention has been paid to the suspended supply of critical weaponry to Ukraine to counter Russian aggression, including tanks, long-range missiles, aircraft, and anti-aircraft defense systems.

Overall, these factors, along with Republican attempts to tarnish Biden’s reputation, especially about six months before the elections (such as the attempt to impeach the president), created negative ratings and led to a decline in voter sympathy.

So, what are the chances of each candidate winning?

After the Republican primaries, it’s no surprise that Donald Trump portrays himself as the temporarily disturbed incumbent president. For example, in 2016, his opponents failed in the face of his deliberate (and ideologically unorthodox) proclamations. His control over the Republican Party remains strong, as before.

However, this illusion of authority and the complacency it breeds will be a challenge for the Republican candidate. Electoral realignments, which have pushed some ethnic minority voters away from the Democratic Party, hinder both directions, and Trump’s legal troubles repel college-educated Americans.

Democrats are counting on the resonating mistakes of the Republican Party to push their candidate—almost with the same rating as Trump—for a second term.

On the other hand, Joe Biden is achieving some success in restoring his old image, but persistent inflation and the war in Gaza are turning major Democratic voters against him for other reasons. The current state of the race is very well-balanced.

Also, according to a Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll conducted on March 23, President Joe Biden strengthened his position in swing states, garnering support in six out of seven. However, these states are so volatile that the situation may change over the next seven months.

Thus, at the moment, we can see that both candidates are imperfect and have a list of negative factors that could affect their results in November. Both their ratings are also ambiguous—Trump’s support percentage is too low for victory, and Biden’s percentage is insufficient for reelection (in most cases, one needs to have over 50% for that).

Therefore, it’s very difficult to say definitively who will win voter sympathies. Unless there is some too-radical event that could tilt the scales in one direction, making predictions close to the truth will be almost impossible.


The upcoming elections involving candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden are a key moment in American politics that will shape the country’s leadership trajectory and foreign policy. Thanks to the candidates’ unwavering and, in many ways, polarized positions, the elections promise to be a battleground for the opposing visions of the two largest political forces in the United States.

Summing up the analysis of the 2024 election campaign and the chances of the two main contenders for the presidency of the United States, several key conclusions can be drawn. Firstly, despite Donald Trump’s undeniable leadership among Republican Party candidates and high levels of support among party members, his ratings among the entire electorate remain relatively low. This is due to numerous legal proceedings related to the former president, his often questionable rhetoric, and constant accusations of attempting to obstruct the democratic electoral process.

Secondly, although President Biden does not have many scandals associated with his campaign, his support ratings remain relatively low. The reasons for this are the president’s age and health status, as well as the dissatisfaction of some voters with his policies in various areas, including migration, assistance to Ukraine, and the economic development of the country. However, a certain portion of the population still supports Biden, particularly due to his progressive ideas and the stability he seeks to provide.

It is important to note that pre-election ratings are not always accurate forecasts of voting results. The situation may change in a few months due to unforeseen events or effective election campaigns of candidates. Therefore, making final conclusions about the future winner based on current data would be premature.

Overall, the 2024 presidential race promises to be tense and competitive. Both candidates have strengths and weaknesses, as well as significant opposition in society. The decisive factors could be the effectiveness of election campaigns, the candidates’ ability to unite voters around their ideas, and the avoidance of loud scandals and legal problems. The final choice will remain with the American electorate, who will have the opportunity to evaluate the candidates’ platforms and their plans for the next presidential term.

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