Monthly Archives: August 2023

Senate Primaries Forming – Part I

By Jim Ellis — Friday, Aug. 11, 2023


Senate Races: Balance of Power — The 2024 US Senate races are critical in determining which party will control the chamber in the next Congress, but before Republicans mount a challenge to the Democratic majority they must first navigate through what, in some cases, could be contentious primaries.

The Democrats have only one legitimate challenge opportunity within the field of 11 Republican defense states — Texas — but here as well, they feature a competitive battle for the party nomination. They are also likely headed to a rousing year-long double-Democratic jungle primary and general election in California and a hotly contested open intra-party battle in Maryland.

The following is a brief synopsis of the primary situations in the states alphabetically from Arizona through Montana. Next, we will cover Nevada through Wisconsin:

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I) / Photo by Gage Skidmore

• Arizona: In this wild-card Senate race that will feature a three-way general election, two of the entries appear set. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I) has not yet officially announced that she will seek re-election, but all indications are that she will mount a vigorous campaign. The question remains as to whether she will run as an Independent or the nominee of a minor party, such as the No Labels Party, which has qualified in her state. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) appears as a lock to win the Democratic nomination.

On the Republican side, reports are surfacing the 2022 gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is close to announcing her Senate effort. Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb is already a declared candidate. Early polling suggests that Lake would begin with a significant primary lead.

Though most Republican strategists blanch at another Lake run, it is important to remember that she received 49.6 percent of the vote in the governor’s race. In the three-way Senate contest, 35-38 percent is likely all that’s necessary to win and she has strong base support. The Arizona primary is scheduled for Aug. 6, 2024.

• California: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) is retiring, and in her wake is a major political battle among three progressive left Democratic House members, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Katie Porter (D-Irvine), and Adam Schiff (D-Burbank). The big question coming from the jungle primary is whether a Republican, coalescing the minority party votes, can capture one of the two general election finalist positions because the Democratic vote will be so badly fractured.

Chances are Reps. Schiff and Porter, probably in that order, advance into what promises to be a contentious and very expensive open US Senate general election campaign. The California jungle primary is scheduled for Super Tuesday, March 5.

• Florida: Democrats have yet to find a credible opponent for Sen. Rick Scott (R), but he does have Republican opposition. Businessman Keith Gross, who reportedly has the wherewithal to fund his own campaign but has yet to make a substantial investment, is challenging Sen. Scott for renomination.

Gross may be able to wage a battle against the senator but toppling him for the nomination appears as a bridge too far. Sen. Scott appears in good shape for renomination and re-election. The Florida primary is late, Aug. 20, 2024, so much time remains for a primary contest to take shape.

• Indiana: Sen. Mike Braun (R) is leaving the Senate to run for governor, and Congressman Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) appears to be the prohibitive favorite to succeed him in both the Republican primary and general election. At this point, no strong Republican has emerged, but that could change as we get closer to the Feb. 9, 2024, candidate filing deadline. The Indiana primary is scheduled for May 7, 2024.
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Biden’s Summer Doldrums

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023


President Joe Biden / Photo by Gage Skidmore

Biden: Downward Trend — It’s the middle of summer, and President Joe Biden apparently has entered a downward trend, at least as far as some key polls are concerned.

The Premise research organization tracks the presidential race every two weeks, and their latest release finds Biden falling behind former President Donald Trump, even on their nationwide ballot test.

The survey (Aug. 2-7; 1,726 US adults; 1,306 self-identified registered voters; via the Premise “smartphone application”; weighted) gives Trump a seven-point lead, 41-34 percent, within the entire adult sampling universe, and 42-38 percent among the self-identified registered voters. The troubling part of this survey from the Biden campaign’s perspective is not so much trailing Trump but posting support numbers only in the 30s – this, for an incumbent president with 100 percent name identification.

Overall, the sampling universe is very pessimistic. The group breaks 17:68 percent on the right direction/wrong track question, President Biden’s job approval is 30:59 percent positive to negative, and 82 percent rates the US economy as either fair or poor. Among Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents, 55 percent believe that the president should not run for re-election.

This poll isn’t the only one that detects Biden losing political luster. The Morning Consult tracking survey (Aug. 4-6; 6,000 US registered voters; online) finds Biden leading Trump on the national ballot test, but only by one percentage point, a very low number for these tracks that generally post Biden to stronger numbers.

In Michigan, Emerson College’s latest survey (Aug. 1-2; 1,121 registered Michigan voters; multiple sampling techniques) sees Trump forging a 43-41-4 percent lead with Dr. Cornel West on the ballot as the Green Party candidate.

Emerson’s Arizona poll (Aug. 2-4; 1,337 registered Arizona voters; multiple sampling techniques) finds Trump holding a one point lead, again with Dr. West attracting four percent support.

Returning to the Premise poll, the data also finds the majority believing that he will continue his campaign even if convicted and sentenced to prison. A total of 70 percent of the respondent sample, led by a 79:21 percent split among Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents, believe he would continue the race.

The legal situation would change voter sentiment only if the former chief executive were actually in prison at the time of the election. Here, only 39 percent said they would support him if he were in prison, while 52 percent said they would not. This, even though a majority of the sample (53 percent) believes he is guilty of the charged crimes.

Looking at the length of time the entire court process consumes, including appealing all the way to the Supreme Court if convicted, it is highly unlikely that Trump would enter prison before the election. It is probable that even the trials would be delayed until after the general election is held.

There is increased speculation that for some reason President Biden will end his campaign and the Democrats will be forced to find a new nominee. While this scenario is highly unlikely, the Premise pollsters asked the question as to who the self-identified Democrats and Democrat leaning Independents would support.

While most believe that California Gov. Gavin Newsom is waiting in the wings, he doesn’t fare particularly well within this national polling sample. According to the Premise results, it is Vice President Kamala Harris who tops the field with 21 percent support. Gov. Newsom falls to fourth place with only 10 percent backing, and just ahead of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg who posts seven percent.

The second- and third-place finishers are unlikely candidates. This sample would choose former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton second at a 15 percent support level with two-time presidential candidate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, just behind at 14 percent.

Obviously, polling more than a year before the election and five months ahead of the first primary vote means very little. The numbers vary virtually by the day, but these latest figures do show a significant trend change. Whether this becomes an entrenched pattern remains to be seen.

No Labels Party:
Qualifies in Two More States

No Labels Party website image

By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023


No Labels: Making Inroads — The No Labels Party, which is attempting to bring ideological moderates from the two major parties and the self-identified independent voter under one entity, has qualified for the ballot in two more states.

Nevada and South Dakota will now feature a No Labels Party ballot line, joining Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon. While the number of qualified states is small in relation to the whole country, three of these six states are key swing entities that could well affect the outcome of next year’s presidential campaign.

Let’s look at one particular poll that exemplifies how a minor candidate can influence a hotly contested election. A new Emerson College poll of the Michigan electorate (Aug. 1-2), for example, finds President Joe Biden leading former President Donald Trump by less than a percentage point. When Green Party candidate Cornel West’s name is added to the questionnaire, Trump takes a two point lead over Biden because West draws four percent support.

The Michigan example will be similar in the states where the presidential election is extremely close. In this case, Dr. West’s presence draws enough left-of-center Michigan voters away from President Biden that would allow former President Trump to take the lead. We would likely see a reversed outcome if the minor party candidate were prone to attract suburban Republican votes.

The No Labels Party is different than others we have seen over the years in that they are well financed and have a national organization. Therefore, the ability to qualify for the ballot in a maximum number of states is greater than any other minor party — including the Green Party — of which Dr. West will be the likely nominee.

Looking at the composition of the No Labels Republican leadership — should they file a presidential candidate (the leaders have not yet committed to doing so) it will be someone more likely to take votes away from Trump rather than Biden. Therefore, when the party leaders and activists from around the country meet in Dallas on April 14-15, it is probable they will choose a disaffected Republican for the presidential slot and a disaffected Democrat as the running mate … if they even decide to file a national candidate slate.

The organization’s co-chairmen, former US senator and 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman and ex-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), have said on multiple occasions that they want a ticket comprised of a member from each major party, but again without firmly committing to fielding a presidential ticket.

Turning to the No Labels qualified states, Arizona and Nevada are two of the five entities where flipping from Biden in 2020 to the Republican nominee in 2024 could change the national outcome.

A surprising state that could be in play next year is Alaska. The Last Frontier state changed its election system in the last election and added a Ranked Choice Voting system should no candidate secure majority support.

The addition of a No Labels candidate could make the above scenario real. In the 2020 Alaska special congressional election, Republican candidates cumulatively drew 60 percent of the vote; yet, when RCV went into effect because no one reached 50 percent, a Democratic candidate won the election. Therefore, Alaska should be added to the watch list of swing states that could move toward the Democrats.

Pennsylvania and North Carolina are two of the larger states in the swing category. Pennsylvania went Democratic in 2020, while North Carolina backed the Republican nominee. Both states require a defined number of valid registered voter petition signatures for a candidate under a different party banner to earn a ballot position.

Wisconsin, another state that swung the Democrats’ way but which could certainly rebound in 2024, employs the same requirements for minor party candidates as they do for Republicans and Democrats. Therefore, No Labels would have a strong chance of qualifying in this important swing domain as well.

Should key minor party candidates qualify in each of these aforementioned states – how each break will be critical in determining the 2024 presidential winner – the number of votes they attract, and from which candidate they draw, will be a major factor in how the election turns not only in these particular states but in the nation as a whole.

Kennedy’s Victory Path

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023


Robert F. Kennedy Jr. / Photo by Gage Skidmore

Can RFK Jr. Do It?: Here’s How — Though there is plenty with which to disagree in a new piece that author and literary agent Brian Robertson published Sunday in the Washington Examiner (RFK Jr. Has a Path to Victory), he does raise an interesting point about a potential victory path for presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

In the article, Robertson makes the statement that the Kennedy campaign is now “driving the legacy media, as well as their handlers in the Democratic Party, insane with desperation.” He further states that Kennedy is showing “surprising strength” in the polls and posting “robust” fundraising numbers.

Little of the aforementioned rings true. It is highly unlikely that the Biden campaign strategists and their many media allies are panicking over the presence of Kennedy as an opponent.

Furthermore, it is not realistic to describe Kennedy’s poll numbers, which ranged from 11-20 pecent among Democratic primary voters through various national surveys, as ”surprising strength.” Additionally, while the Kennedy campaign reports on their June 30 Federal Election Commission campaign finance disclosure report of raising over $6.3 million, in this day and age of campaigning nationally such a dollar number is not particularly “robust.”

Robertson, however, does make some intriguing points. First, he is correct in his assessment that Kennedy has done a credible job of cracking through the media-imposed blackout of him and at least neutralizing their attempt to dismiss him as basically just a nuisance candidate to President Joe Biden.

Conversely, it’s important to keep in mind that President Biden’s own standing within Democratic primary polling isn’t all that impressive for an incumbent national leader. While Kennedy ranges from 11-20 percent as mentioned above, President Biden’s numbers spread between 60-71 percent in the same polls. Typically, an incumbent president should be posting average support figures of well over 80 percent from voters within his own political party.

But Robertson’s most interesting point is around the type of primaries the early states will host. The author isolates the first voting states of, for the Democrats, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Michigan, and educates the reader that all have some form of open voting. This means that non-affiliated voters can crossover and cast their ballot in the Democratic primary. The vast majority of these voters are not covered in the Democratic nomination polls, so within this group could be a hidden subset of voters for Kennedy.

The situation then becomes more intriguing if President Biden does not enter the New Hampshire primary. The state is unlikely to adhere to the Democratic National Committee’s primary schedule, thus President Biden may just skip the Granite State vote.

In and of itself, this would not be a major happening, but if Kennedy can begin to attract enough non-affiliated voters, and perhaps even some Republican support where election laws allow, meaning South Carolina, Michigan, Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia, from this pool of states voting before and on Super Tuesday, the campaign could begin to change.

While there is little chance that even a surging Kennedy campaign could deny President Biden renomination, the challenger exceeding expectations may certainly cast a new light upon the general election. Additionally, the stronger Kennedy’s showing in the early states is, enhances his attractiveness to a minor party searching for a candidate.

While Kennedy at this point rejects questions about running as a minor party candidate, a stronger than expected finish in the early Democratic primaries could cause him to think otherwise.

DeSantis Accepts Debate Challenge; Poll Shows Gallego Leading; New NC AG Candidate; Cuellar Starting Early

By Jim Ellis — Monday, Aug. 7, 2023


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) / Photo by Gage Skidmore

DeSantis: Accepts Debate Challenge — Gov. Ron DeSantis has accepted the rather unusual debate challenge he received from California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), a non-candidate. The idea came from an interview Newsom held with Fox News television host Sean Hannity. The California governor said he would go as long as three hours and not use any notes. He also agreed for Hannity to moderate. Details to follow.


Arizona: New Poll Finds Rep. Gallego Leading — A new Noble Predictive Insights (formerly OH Predictive Insights) Arizona survey (July 13-17; 1,000 registered Arizona voters; online) finds US Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix), the likely 2024 Democratic Senate nominee, leading incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I), and unannounced Republican candidate Kari Lake. According to the ballot test, Rep. Gallego is staked to a 34-26-25 percent advantage over Sinema and Lake. In this wild card race, as the Noble poll illustrates, all three candidates can craft a victory path.

The good news for Sen. Sinema is that 69 percent of Independents, 57 percent of Republicans, and 43 percent of Democrats say they are extremely willing, very willing, or at least somewhat willing to support her, which is a marked improvement when compared to previous research studies.


NC-8: Rep. Bishop to Run for NC Attorney General — As expected, three-term US Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte) announced late last week that he will enter the open 2024 race for attorney general in his home state of North Carolina. The move opens his 8th Congressional District, which, for now, is a safe Republican seat. With the North Carolina map slated to be redrawn in early October, we can expect this Charlotte metro open seat to be radically changed.

Rep. Bishop is the 15th House member to announce he won’t be seeking re-election in 2024, and the fifth Republican. Of the 15, only two are retiring. The remainder are seeking other elective offices. The North Carolina attorney general’s office will be open because incumbent AG Josh Stein (D) is running for governor.

TX-28: Rep. Cuellar Starting Early — Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), generally viewed as the most conservative member of the House Democratic Conference, is taking fast action to answer two political questions.

First, if there there is a chance he might switch parties; and second, is he preparing for another Democratic primary challenge? He is clearly staying in the Democratic Party, and he is already working to blunt what could be another intra-party challenge. In the past two election cycles, he edged attorney Jessica Cisneros by a 48.7 – 46.6 percent split in 2020 followed with a bare 50.3 – 49.7 percent win in 2022.

In an attempt to unite the party behind him for the 2024 election, Rep. Cuellar late last week announced endorsements from House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA), Democratic Conference chairman Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), former Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and ex-Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC).

GOP Changes Delegate Allocation Rules; Former Rep. Cisneros May Return; Re-Match Possible in New Hampshire, Other House News; Wisconsin Redistricting Lawsuit

By Jim Ellis — Friday, Aug. 4, 2023


California: GOP Changes Delegate Allocation Rules — The California Republican Party’s executive committee, a total of 100 members, voted to change the way the state allocates its Republican delegates. Despite California being a poor performer for Republicans, the presidential delegation to the GOP national convention is still the largest in the country. In 2024, the state will feature 169 voting delegates.

Instead of allocating the delegates through the state’s 52 congressional districts – three delegates per district plus at-large votes – the California GOP will now authorize a system that awards a winning candidate who obtains majority support in the March 5, 2024 primary all of the state’s delegate votes. Many states use this system, but California doing so will provide an extra vote boost to the Golden State primary winner.

At this point, several polls show former President Donald Trump at or exceeding the 50 percent threshold. The change makes it all the more likely that the nomination will be clinched as voting ends on Super Tuesday.


One-term ex-Congressman Gil Cisneros (D)

CA-31: Former Rep. Cisneros May Return — One-term ex-Congressman Gil Cisneros (D), a former US Navy officer who struck it rich in winning over $200 million from a major lottery, has resigned his position as Under Secretary of Defense. Speculation suggests this is his first definitive move to declare for retiring Rep. Grace Napolitano’s (D-Norwalk) Los Angeles County congressional seat.

Cisneros defeated now-Congresswoman Young Kim (R-La Habra) in 2018 from a 39th District that covered parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties. In 2020, Kim returned for a re-match and reversed the outcome. She now represents the post-redistricting 40th CD that covers parts of Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

Already in the open 31st District race are state senators Bob Archuleta (D-Pico Rivera) and Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) along with Community College Trustee and former Monrovia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz (D). It is likely that two Democrats will advance into the general election from the all-party primary. While Cisneros represented virtually none of the current 31st CD during his previous stint in the House, even Rep. Napolitano fails to reside within the district, so the lack of residency is likely not much of a detriment.

NH-2: Re-Match Possible — Former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns (R), who lost the 2022 congressional race 56-44 percent to veteran Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton/ Concord), confirms that he is considering returning for a re-match. His decision is nowhere close to being made, however. He also says he would like to run for governor and would even consider a bid for Executive Councilor if one of those seats were to open. It is likely the Republican leadership would prefer a more committed candidate.

Since the New Hampshire June candidate filing deadline is later than most state’s primaries, this race will develop over a long period. At this point, Rep. Kuster will be favored to win a seventh term in 2024.

PA-7: New Candidate Announces — The Public Affairs director of the Philadelphia Convention Center, Maria Montero (R), announced her congressional candidacy Wednesday. This will be the second time she has run for the US House. Montero, also former staff member for Republican former Gov. Tom Corbett, entered the special nomination for the 12th District seat, closer to central PA, when then-Rep. Tom Marino (R) resigned. She lost to then-state Rep. Fred Keller who would go onto win the special election.

Already in the race are state Rep. Ryan MacKenzie (R-Macungie) and 2022 candidate Kevin Dellicker who secured 49 percent of the Republican primary vote. The winner will face vulnerable Rep. Susan Wild (D-Allentown) in a politically marginal 7th CD that covers the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton area. In the past two competitive elections against Republican Lisa Scheller, Rep. Wild has been re-elected with 52 and 51 percent of the vote.

UT-2: Maloy Approved for Ballot — Celeste Maloy, who the Republican 2nd District convention chose as its candidate for the special election to replace resigning Rep. Christopher Stewart (R-Farmington), has faced a serious challenge to her standing as a candidate.

A state judge in ruling Wednesday over a lawsuit filed against Maloy claiming that she did not meet the state’s residency requirement to run for Congress, declared that she will be slated on the Sept. 5 special primary ballot. The judge stated that “the public interest favors respecting the party convention’s choice.” He further said that the election process is well underway, and ballots have been printed. Therefore, altering the candidate configuration would be disruptive.

Earning Republican ballot positions through the signature petition process are former state Rep. Becky Edwards and ex-Republican National Committeeman Bruce Hough. Democrats have united around state Sen. Kathleen Riebe (D-Cottonwood Heights). The special general election is scheduled for Nov. 21. Rep. Stewart will resign on Sept. 15.


Wisconsin: Redistricting Lawsuit Filed — A coalition of law firms and progressive left activists filed a challenge to Wisconsin’s state Senate and Assembly redistricting maps, labeling them partisan gerrymanders. Now that the new liberal majority state Supreme Court has taken office, the plaintiffs winning this lawsuit is probably just a matter of time.

The court will likely order a redraw of the two plans, which will almost assuredly be a precursor to the congressional map being re-configured as well. At this time, however, the federal plan is not included in this particular lawsuit.

Comparing Biden

President Joe Biden / Photo by Gage Skidmore

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023


Polling: Biden at Lowest Job Approval Rating — News reports are quoting the recent CBS News poll from the YouGov international polling firm (July 26-28; 2,181 US adults; online) as giving President Joe Biden his lowest job approval rating to date. The CBS result found a whopping 60 percent saying they disapproved of the president’s performance in office.

Lately, presidential job approval polling is prevalent. Several firms, such as Morning Consult and Rasmussen Reports, track presidential job performance daily. Therefore, we frequently see a rather wide range of Biden performance ratings on a regular basis.

According to the FiveThirtyEight data organization, President Biden’s positive job approval response from July 26 through Aug. 1 ranged from 35 percent (Premise) all the way to 47 percent (Rasmussen Reports). The president’s disapproval score was recorded from a low of 51 percent (Rasmussen) to a high of 60 percent (YouGov for CBS; Premise).

Regardless of how the job approval research data may vary from day to day, it is curious to see just how these numbers compare with the historical presidential research. The Gallup data firm began presidential approval polling and has charted it ever since President Harry Truman began preparing for the 1948 national election.

According to the current Gallup data, last recorded on President Biden’s 918th day in office, 40 percent of the sampling universe graded him with a positive job approval score (Gallup only records the positive approval response on their historical chart).

Reviewing the 14 presidents from Truman through Biden, inclusive, we look at where certain other presidents stood at around this same time in their own administrations. Interestingly, three other presidents were within the same approval rating realm as Biden at this same approximate point in their presidencies. The three are: Donald Trump (42 percent at the 922nd day of his presidency); Barack Obama (42 percent; 929); and Ronald Reagan (44 percent; 923).

As you can see just from this group, presidential approval 18 or so months before the general election is not an absolute predictor as to whether the subject wins or loses the succeeding national election. Just from the above sample of three, we see one who lost (Trump) and two who won (Obama, Reagan). President Reagan, in fact, had the highest growth rate from his standing 923 days into his term to his final vote percentage of all 14 charted presidents (44 percent approval; 58.8 percent vote percentage in the 1984 election; a comparative gain of 14.8 percentage points).

This tells us that presidential job performance between the commensurate benchmark point in time and the election, and running a sound campaign, are far more important factors in determining presidential re-election outcome than job approval at this point in the term.

Interestingly, the three presidents with the highest approval rating at the commensurate benchmark who ran for re-election: George H.W. Bush (72 percent approval; 905th day in office); Dwight Eisenhower (72 percent; 910); and George W. Bush (62 percent approval; 900) were also the three who lost the most percentage points from their approval ratings in comparison to their ending vote percentage.

In fact, as we know, the leader at this commensurate point, George H.W. Bush with a 72 percent positive job approval, would go on to lose re-election with a finishing popular vote percentage 34.5 points lower than his approval score 18 months before the 1992 national vote. Both presidents Eisenhower and George W. Bush followed the same pattern, but not as dramatically. Eisenhower dropped 14.6 percent from his approval rating to final vote percentage, and Bush, 11.3 percent.

Overall, of the 14 presidents with recorded job approval scores throughout their tenure in office, seven won the succeeding election and four lost. Two — presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson — did not seek another term. Obviously, Kennedy had been assassinated, while Johnson declined to run.

Of the seven who won the succeeding election, four had positive job approval ratings approximately 18 months before the vote (Truman, Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush), while three did not (Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Obama).

From the group of four presidents who lost the succeeding election, two had positive ratings approximately 900 days into their terms (George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford), and two were in upside-down territory (Jimmy Carter and Trump).

Though President Biden has low approval ratings at this juncture, it is by no means certain that he will fail to win re-election in 2024. History tells us that any result can still happen.