At first glance, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump scored big wins on Super Tuesday. Trump swept nearly all of the day’s primaries, knocking out his lone remaining rival, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Biden won all of Tuesday’s races, except for the American Samoa caucus.

So the November presidential matchup is now set. It’ll be a repeat of 2020 with the 77-year-old Trump facing off against the 81-year-old Biden.

At the moment, Trump leads Biden among registered voters, according to the latest Siena College poll, 48 percent to 43 percent.

But November is a long ways away. And both candidates have vulnerabilities that could swing the election in either direction.

Age Ain’t Just a Number

The two men are separated only by four years, but until recently, age has only been a vulnerability for Biden. His verbal gaffes and stumbling on stages and stairs go viral — and not just among conservatives. Biden is a visibly older man and his relay is diminished. It’s unclear whether the decline extends to his decision-making. But the optics are pretty terrible.


Seventy-three percent of all registered voters and 56 percent of Democratic voters now say that Biden is “too old” to be an effective president. By contrast, just 42 percent of all registered voters and 20 percent of Republicans say the same of Trump.

Trump is no spring chicken. But on stage, he’s a performer. And that lends itself to a perception of vitality. Trump appears strong, mocking his rivals on stage and then demolishing them in the primaries.

But Trump’s own gaffes seem to be increasing in frequency, like when he referred to Biden as “Obama” several times this weekend. Importantly, some conservative commentators have now begun to point out Trump’s cognitive decline.

In the final weeks of her campaign, Haley also tried to make it an issue, presenting herself as an alternative to the two “grumpy old men.” Now that she’s out of the race, maybe such concerns will die out among conservatives. But as the campaign and Trump’s legal battles heat up this summer, the stress could take a toll on his faculties and his poll numbers.

The bottom line: age may not just be Biden’s problem.

The Palestine Factor

The Democratic Party is a big tent coalition. Election victories involve getting all its constituent elements out, with messaging tailored to each group: pro-choice women, black Americans, Hispanics, union workers, young progressives, and others.

Turning out these groups will be key for Biden in November. But enthusiasm among his base is low. A plurality of Democratic primary voters say they would be “satisfied, but not enthusiastic” with a Biden nomination, according to a new Siena College poll.

Democratic voters are lukewarm on Biden for many reasons, including the overhang of the post-COVID inflationary cycle. But the Biden administration’s handling of Israel’s Gaza war is another.

It’s led to a sizeable “uncommitted” vote not just in Michigan, home to a large Arab American population, but also in Minnesota yesterday.

Biden will undoubtedly win Minnesota in November. It’s a safe blue state. But close to 20 percent of yesterday’s Democratic primary voters in Minnesota selected “uncommitted.” In these primary contests, an “uncommitted” vote is a cost-free form of protest. Still, in November, some are likely to choose to stay at home or make a protest vote for a third-party candidate. And in swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, those numbers might be enough to make a difference.

It’s not just Arab Americans and American Muslims who are using the “uncommitted” selection to protest Biden’s policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A recent Siena College poll shows that registered voters in all non-white communities, including blacks and Hispanics, say they sympathize more with the Palestinians than they do with the Israelis. The same goes for Democrats and Biden voters. The gap is even starker among the youngest of voters, with 51 percent of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 29 saying they sympathize with the Palestinians more than they do with Israelis (16 percent).

The racial and generational divide on Israel and Palestine was evident soon after the October 7 attacks by Hamas. After more than 30,000 Palestinians were killed by Israel, it has only sharpened.

These voters are unlikely to defect to Trump. But should they fail to turn out at the polls or make a protest vote for a third-party candidate, Trump will be the primary beneficiary. The irony here is that Biden could be sacrificing his reelection to keep in power an Israeli prime minister who wants Trump back in office anyway.

Haley Voters = Never Trumpers?

The top-line numbers look pretty good for Trump. But the Haley win in Vermont and exit polls from other states show a pretty sizeable anti-Trump camp within the Republican Party. They all might not be Never Trumpers. But if the former president is convicted on any of the 91 charges he’s currently facing, a substantial percentage of Haley voters may choose an option other than Trump this November.

Take Virginia, for example. It may no longer be a swing state, but it’s close enough to illustrate the risk to Trump’s election bid if he’s convicted before November. Among the 35 percent or so who voted for Haley in Virginia on Tuesday, the vast majority — 80 percent to be exact — said they wouldn’t consider Trump fit for president if he were convicted. A majority of Haley voters in North Carolina, a swing state where Trump currently leads, also said the same.

Trump’s core supporters, primarily white evangelicals, are extremely loyal. They see him as their soldier and the victim of a politicized judicial witchhunt. But many Republicans who cast their vote for Haley and others will be affected by a court judgment that could come before Election Day.

So the silver lining for Biden is that while he’s very much a weak horse, he faces no danger of criminal conviction. Behind in the polls, a jury could hand Biden a victory in an October surprise.

Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News. Rafiq has contributed commentary and analysis on global issues for publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the New York Times, and POLITICO Magazine.

He has appeared on numerous broadcast outlets, including Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio.


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