The 2024 presidential candidate lineup: Who’ll take the lead?

The 2024 presidential election is in full swing, with primaries on both sides firing up. As the Iowa caucus quickly approaches on Jan. 15, 2024, many voters are wondering who the strongest candidate on both sides of the aisle will be. 

Before we dive into detail, we need to define what I mean by “strongest” in this analysis. There are a variety of factors I will reference in making my determinations, including general electability and likability, charisma, current polling, policy proposals, general momentum and name recognition, among others. There will be some candidates who may excel in one category or the other, but are generally weaker with all factors considered. 

For the Democrats, the strongest overall candidate currently running is incumbent President Joe Biden. Biden has factors weighing against him, like his low approval rating, impeachment inquiries and many questioning his mental endurance for another four years. That being said, the main candidate running against him in the Democratic primary, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., currently does not have the momentum needed to pose a serious challenge.

Kennedy has the best chance of those on the left to unseat the president, but currently he is only polling around 9-12% according to Real Clear Politics. Additionally, while some Democrats see him as a good alternative to the current president, his stances on issues such as the COVID-19 vaccine and his invitation to speak before the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government over the summer have led some to believe he is a “right-wing plant” rather than a serious candidate. These factors, along with the Democratic National Committee’s decision not to host primary debates, will certainly hurt Kennedy’s chances. 

While Biden is the strongest Democrat currently running, there is a strong argument that California Gov. Gavin Newsom would take hold of the race if he decided to enter. Newsom, age 55, would be seen as a great, younger alternative to the current president and is doing well in hypothetical polling against GOP front-runners Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. If Newsom was to jump in the race, either against Biden or in place of Biden, he would very quickly become a solid candidate. 

For the Republicans, the field is much more crowded. While there are several contenders in the primary, I will only be discussing the three highest-polling according to Real Clear Politics’ national average: former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Ohio businessman Vivek Ramaswamy. Of the three, I believe Trump is the strongest. 

Vivek Ramaswamy is a good candidate with great policies and a bright future in the Republican Party, but he is not on his way to win this race. Ramaswamy, while third, is polling in the single digits and does not have the name recognition necessary to win this primary. Questions about his past overshadow some of his messaging, even on his own website, and while many in the GOP are undeterred by his Hindu faith, others still are skeptical of voting for a non-Christian candidate in the primary. 

DeSantis has long been considered the strong alternative to Trump in the GOP nomination, but his inability to close the gap between himself and the former president spells trouble for his campaign. DeSantis has had to turn over campaign staff, fight scandals relating to social media and change strategies multiple times over the summer. This, combined with his lackluster debate performance due to a lack of screen time and perceived awkwardness and inability to connect with voters, spells serious trouble for what is already considered to be a sinking ship by some strategists and donors.

Trump has a lot to work against, including his various indictments, his lack of likability and his continued promotion of the theory that the 2020 election was stolen from him — a theory that, whether you agree with it or not, seems to turn off moderate voters. That being said, some of his greatest weaknesses could turn out to be even greater strengths, as his popularity in the GOP has only increased with each indictment, evidenced by the $7.1 million his campaign was able to raise since his recent mugshot. He is also polling well in key swing states, either being tied with or even leading Biden in some key polls according to Real Clear Politics.

Regardless of your opinion on Trump, his tight grip on the Republican Party and strong momentum are undeniable, thus, in part, why I consider him to be the strongest Republican candidate. 

Hughes is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on X

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