Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

The 2024 Calendar Is Beginning to Fill In

The last few days have seen a couple of announcements about dates that are usually important ones on the political calendar, though maybe not so much in 2024.

To start, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) revealed the dates and locations for this cycle's three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate:

Presumably, they were going for one red state, one blue state and the closest thing the U.S. has to an independent state (outside of Alaska, where they most certainly will not be holding a presidential debate). That said, Donald Trump won Utah twice, and he won Texas twice by margins larger than those by which Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton won Virginia. So, if there's a skew to the debate locations, it's a Trumpward skew. The fact that the first debate will be held at Lyndon B. Johnson's alma mater doesn't rebalance that. Anyhow, keep it in mind when Trump starts complaining about "bias."

There are three big questions. The first, of course, is whether Trump will show up for any of them. He claims that he wants to debate Biden: "He and I have to definitely debate. That's what I love. The two of us have to debate," he said during an interview on Fox a few months back. However—and you may not know this—Trump has been known to tell falsehoods, on occasion. For example, he most certainly doesn't love to debate—he doesn't like the prep, he doesn't like the constraints, he doesn't like that he might be asked a question or two that's not a softball. Meanwhile, the RNC has made noise about not allowing "its candidate" to debate unless some changes are made (changes that are totally unacceptable, and would compromise the integrity of the debates). If we had to bet right now, we would bet that Trump says he'd really, really love to be there, but he's a loyal party man, and the RNC just won't let him. (This despite the fact that the RNC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization.)

The second question is whether Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will qualify for one or more of the debates. The CPD set the same polling threshold it usually does, which is 15%. Right now, the king with the tinfoil crown is averaging around 14.5% in polls. So, he would need to hold on to his current support, plus expand it a bit. Truth be told, we're inclined to think he's very near his peak right now, and that it's not too likely he will make the cut after people have had 9 months to learn what he's all about. If he does make it, he'll be the first independent to pull off the feat since Ross Perot in 1992. Who, come to think of it, was also a little loony.

The third question is what Joe Biden will do if Trump skips them and Kennedy doesn't qualify, leaving nobody to debate. Would he be up for a de facto town hall? Would the CPD be willing to stage such an event? For these questions, we don't have a guess. What we can say, however, is that the ratings would be dismal. So, Biden/the CPD might be leery, just on that count. Neither the President nor the Commission would be pleased by a headline like: "One-person 'debate' draws smaller audience than 'Gilmore Girls' rerun."

Meanwhile, the other "key" date announced in the past few days is January 23. That was expected to be the date of the New Hampshire primaries, and now the Granite Staters have made it official. This means they are not in compliance with DNC rules (since "number two" South Carolina is on Feb. 3), and that Joe Biden will not be an official candidate. He may still win as a write-in and, of course, we know who's going to win in a walk on the other side of the contest. So, there is rather less drama in New Hampshire than in most years. (Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates