Of all the major elections scheduled to be held around the globe this year, none will be more consequential than the marathon contest for the White House.
This is destined to be another clash between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. All the indications are that this will be even more bitter and divisive than the 2020 race, which descended into the violence of the January 6 Capitol attack by Trump supporters after he claimed that the presidency had been ‘stolen’ from him.
Trump has not wavered from this great lie. A barrage of legal action linked to his continuing efforts to undermine the validity of the election, his dubious business affairs and venal personal conduct have so far failed to derail his efforts to reclaim the presidency.
Indeed, central to the alarming absurdity of the Trump phenomenon is his ability to photosynthesise these challenges and turn them into political energy and growth. A conventional political figure would wither under the onslaught.
Nor are his would-be rivals for the Republican nomination capable of putting a glove on him. Trump didn’t just win big in Iowa, the first caucus of this primary season; he demolished his opponents. He took more than 51% of the vote, an enormous 30 points ahead of his nearest rival, the Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who edged out Nikki Haley.
For context, Trump came second in Iowa in 2016, with 24%, and the previous record Republican win in the caucus was Bob Dole’s 12-point margin of victory in 1988. By any standards, Trump’s victory was emphatic.
Central to the alarming absurdity of the Trump phenomenon is his ability to photosynthesise all challenges and turn them into political energy and growth. A conventional political figure would wither under the onslaught
A repeat next week in the New Hampshire primary will, seasoned US political commentators forecast, effectively see Trump secure the Republican nomination.
The Democrats, meanwhile, have opted to stick with Joe Biden – an adventurous choice, and not only because of the president’s age and apparent health issues. At 81, he is already the oldest serving president. Trump might not be much younger – he will be 78 in June – but is more energetic.
Of more concern to the Biden camp is his approval rating, which has slumped to 33% - the lowest of any president in the past 15 years. That is an unpromising position from which to go up against any rival and especially one as nasty and unconventional as Trump, who berates – with no sense of irony - Biden as the “the worst president that we’ve had in the history of our country”.
Though the momentum is with Trump now, it would be wrong to imagine he is a dead cert to return to the White House.
Anything is possible in politics – US politics in particular – and the Biden v Trump re-match has a long way to run before November 5.