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5 obstacles that could trip Donald Trump as he tries to take back the White House

5 obstacles that could trip Donald Trump as he tries to take back the White House


Former President Trump is the slight favorite to win the November election with less than six months to go.

This is explained less by national polls – where Trump holds only a very small lead – and more by his standing in battleground states.

In the polling average maintained by The Hill and Decision Desk HQ (DDHQ), Trump leads President Biden in each of the seven states considered competitive: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The size of Trump's advantage varies widely, from more than 5 points in Nevada to a measly 0.1 point in Wisconsin. But Biden won every battleground state except North Carolina in 2020. It's clearly significant that the incumbent president is now behind everywhere.

Biden's woes are compounded by voter dissatisfaction with the economy, fissures within his party over Israel and the Palestinians and lingering concerns about his age.

In The Hill/DDHQ average, Biden has a 40 percent approval rating, while 56 percent of Americans disapprove of his job performance.

Trump's advantage is extraordinary given that his many controversies would have sunk anyone else's political career.

Trump is the only president to have been impeached twice. The second indictment related to inciting the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol.

He is also the only president to be charged in a criminal trial; Trump's secret trial draws to a close in New York. Trump was indicted in three other cases, bringing the total number of charges against him to 88.

But Trump's base is renowned for its resilience. The New York trial did not have a significant impact on his poll numbers, and he easily defeated his rivals for the GOP nomination earlier this year.

The most serious of these rivals, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, announced Wednesday that she would vote for Trump in November.

So things look relatively rosy for Trump. But there are big things that could go wrong.

Here are five of them.

A criminal conviction

This is the most immediate danger, although the scale of the threat is not entirely clear.

A recent ABC News/Ipsos poll gained attention by revealing that one in five Trump supporters might reconsider their support if he were convicted of a crime.

But that number represents just 4 percent who said they would withdraw their support. The remainder of potential dissenters, 16 percent, said they would “reconsider” their pro-Trump stance.

It's easy to imagine that most of Trump's voters will ultimately remain loyal to him, given his insistence that the cases against him are politically motivated, the near certainty that he would appeal a conviction and of the general loyalty of his MAGA battalions.

That said, a conviction would be a blow in itself, as it would impose an explosive campaign charge on Democrats: “don't elect a criminal.” It would also give at least some central voters pause.

Part of the Republican Party also remains uncomfortable with Trump. Haley has continued to garner about 20 percent of the vote in some recent primaries, although she suspended her campaign in March.

On the other hand, an acquittal for Trump in New York would give him momentum and make it easier for him to smear the other cases against him. None of these other three cases are certain to go to trial before the election.

In New York, the verdict should come soon. Judge Juan Merchan expects closing arguments to begin Tuesday.

A disastrous debate

Trump had pushed for debates against Biden, and he will get his wish.

A deal at an unusually early date – June 27 in Atlanta – was reached last week. A second debate is planned for September 10. The first debate will be televised by CNN and the second by ABC.

Trump has eschewed the usual approach to setting expectations. The former president called Biden “the worst debater I've ever faced” and said “he can't put two sentences together.”

This kind of boasting from Trump lowers the bar that Biden will have to clear.

Trump avoided all debates during the GOP primary season, arguing that he was so far ahead in the polls that matchups would be a waste of time. But that could leave him rusty come June.

Nor does the danger lie only in a blunder during a debate.

Now that Trump has the Republican Party nomination within his grasp, what he proposes to do in a second term will come under closer scrutiny.

In a recent interview with Time magazine, he described an approach that has been decried by critics as authoritarian.

In the interview, he left the door open to firing any U.S. attorney who refuses his orders to prosecute someone; pardon those convicted of offenses related to January 6; allowing states with strict abortion laws to monitor women's pregnancies; and carry out mass expulsions of illegal migrants.

An election for abortion

The terrain on which the elections take place will be crucial.

There are many issues where Biden and the Democrats have real vulnerabilities, including immigration and the economy. Divisions within the Democratic base over the Israeli attack on Gaza are a problem in themselves.

But the Democrats have a big card to play: abortion.

Social conservatives won a huge legal victory in June 2022 when the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade and his guarantee of the right to abortion. But the subject has since constituted a major political headache for the Republican Party.

The liberal camp has won every statewide abortion ballot measure over the past two years, including in red states like Kentucky and Kansas. This problem has been widely blamed – including by Trump – for the Republican Party's disappointing performance in the 2022 midterm elections.

A year after the dismantling of Roe v. Wade, an NBC News poll showed that 61 percent of voters disapproved of the decision.

It seems unlikely that the importance of abortion will fade. New measures are constantly being adopted. In Florida, a six-week abortion ban took effect earlier this month.

Trump tried to dodge the topic by saying in April that he did not support a federal ban on abortion.

But the issue clearly carries risks for him, particularly among female suburban voters, long considered a vital demographic.

Being dragged down by other people or unexpected events

The big unknown in the 2024 contest is who Trump will choose as his vice presidential nominee.

Even though the former president will greatly overshadow whoever he appoints, the choice remains important – and it could go wrong.

Just think of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who was widely considered a strong contender until she inexplicably included her account of killing her dog in a new book and she endures a miserable media tour to promote the volume.

Whoever Trump chooses will have to stand up better to scrutiny.

There are also concerns within his team about the divisive effects of candidates in other elections in key states. The most frequently cited example is Kari Lake, the highly controversial former news anchor who is likely the Republican Party's nominee for Arizona Senate.

There is of course also the possibility that an unexpected crisis could disrupt the elections. In 2019, no one expected Trump's 2020 re-election campaign to be dominated by a global pandemic. Eight months ago, no one thought the Israeli-Palestinian issue could be a real factor in this year's elections.

A crash against Biden’s “blue wall”

There is a glimmer of hope for Biden in the polls – although it is rather slim.

Aside from the increasingly unlikely possibility of the president going blue in North Carolina, there are six battleground states.

Several polls have shown a significant difference between Trump's standing in the three Southern or Southwest states – Arizona, Georgia and Nevada – and the three northern states that were once considered a Democratic blue wall – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In The Hill/DDHQ averages, Trump is up 3 to 6 points in the first group, but less than 2 points in the second group.

Of course, the polls will change between now and Election Day — and might just be inaccurate.

But if Biden could move the “blue wall” states into his column, it would change the entire election in one fell swoop.

If Biden won those three states, if Trump won the three Southern battlegrounds, and everything else remained unchanged from 2020, the president would be re-elected by a tiny, heartbreaking margin — 270 votes to 268 votes in the Electoral College.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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