The Vibes, They Are A-Shiftin’

Donald Trump and Joe Biden debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. (Photos by Brendan Smialowski and Jim Watson/ AFP/Getty Images)

Are Joe Biden’s chances at reelection improving?

A lull in the Republican primary is an opportune moment to tackle the question, especially now that the outcome on the GOP side is no longer in doubt. To the extent it ever was.

In August, we considered the Biden victory scenario. As weak as the president is, squint hard and you can make out how he might outperform his 2020 margins against Donald Trump this fall. The economy keeps rolling; Trump is convicted of one or more felonies; horror stories from red states that have banned abortion galvanize liberal turnout; Biden remains mostly lucid on the campaign trail.

There’s no trick to beating Trump. He’ll do most of the work. Just get out of the way and let him do his thing.

But you know how this newsletter works by now. Optimism never lasts long.

So in September, we considered the Trump victory scenario. Voters miss the strong pre-pandemic Trump economy; they despise the disaster on the southern border over which Biden has presided; and after a fiasco in Afghanistan and a stalemate in Ukraine, they fear that the president has lost control of events abroad. Grandpa Joe is probably one public “senior moment” away from landing in an electoral hole he can’t climb out of. There’s no need to squint to see how we end up with Trump II: This Time It’s Personal.

That was five months ago. With both candidates on track to sweep their parties’ primaries, which scenario is more likely now?

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