Unpredictable election year now underway
The official kickoff to the presidential nominating process is less than two weeks away, and it promises to be historic and unpredictable.
For one thing, the leading contender for the Republican nomination, former President Donald Trump, faces 91 criminal charges and civil lawsuits while also holding a commanding lead ahead of the Jan. 15 Iowa Caucuses.
“That’s the starting gun for a year that may be unlike any we’ve seen in recent memory,” says Larry Jacobs of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
Jacobs says the potential rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden would be historic because both have major weaknesses.
“We’ve rarely had candidates starting off who are so disliked by large numbers of Americans,” Jacobs says. “I think each of them are vulnerable in their own ways.” Trump faces criminal trials and Biden has historically low approval ratings in the upper 30s and low 40s.
The first key test of Biden’s vulnerability and unpopularity will be the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 23, where he’s not actually on the ballot.
The Democratic National Committee chose not to recognize the New Hampshire primary as the first Democratic test, opting instead for South Carolina. That means Biden supporters will have to write his name in, which could give Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips a boost, especially if Republicans cross over and vote for Phillips in order to hurt Biden.
“Dean Phillips probably has the odds stacked against him, but this is a race where he could surprise the country and have a tremendous impact,” Jacobs told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
Minnesota’s involvement in the presidential nominating process happens on March 5, part of a slate of Super Tuesday contests. Then there are state primaries on Aug. 13, featuring what could be Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s toughest electoral challenge yet. So far no major Republicans have announced plans to run for the 3rd District seat being vacated by Phillips or to challenge U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
That could mean Republicans’ best hope on Election Day in November will be trying to take control of the Minnesota House of Representatives from Democrats.
“I think the DFL has its work cut out for itself. They have increased the [state] budget by near-record amounts,” Jacobs said. “They have brought on new programs, some of which I think are going to turn out to be unpopular with voters. So we’re going to find out if that’s going to have an impact.”