The stage is set for a 2020 rematch. And Biden insiders say he’s ready for it

Joe Biden (left) and Donald Trump (right) are headed for a rematch  (AP)
Joe Biden (left) and Donald Trump (right) are headed for a rematch (AP)

With Super Tuesday now in the rearview mirror and 244 days until the 2024 general election, President Joe Biden and his campaign team are gearing up for what is finally all but confirmed to be a rematch between him and the man he defeated nearly four years ago, former president Donald Trump.

To casual observers, Mr Biden goes into the election season with a weak hand compared to previous incumbents. His approval rating, according to RealClearPolitics, hovers somewhere between 37 and 42 per cent, with an average of just 39 per cent approval and 57 per cent disapproval.

Multiple polls show voters harbouring significant concerns over whether Mr Biden, at age 81, has the stamina or capacity to serve another full four-year term. And many of those same surveys — both nationally and in key swing states — show that Mr Biden would lose to Mr Trump if the election were held at the time the polls in question were conducted.

Yet at the same time, the Biden campaign team is confident that the president will be able to turn his incumbency into electoral advantages between now and the 5 November election.

Sources within Mr Biden’s campaign and his White House staff tell The Independent they see the president’s annual State of the Union address to Congress on 7 March as a key date on the calendar.

While the annual speech isn’t the overwhelming television ratings juggernaut it once was in the days when broadcast television networks reigned supreme over all other media, the Biden brain trust believes he will be able to successfully harness the presidential bully pulpit by using his speech to cast the presidential contest as a choice between him and Mr Trump – as opposed to a referendum on his presidency thus far.

Despite the lacklustre polling for the 46th president, the Biden campaign is quietly confident that they are actually entering the general election season with significant advantages over Mr Trump.

In a memorandum distributed to the press early on Wednesday, Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez and senior advisor Jen O’Malley Dillon describe Mr Trump as entering the general election “beleaguered and ill-equipped”.

They write that Mr Trump “limps into the general election as a wounded, dangerous and unpopular candidate” after vanquishing his last primary rival, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, and further describe the disgraced, twice-impeached and quadruply-indicted ex-president as “cash-strapped, beleaguered by a host of external issues,” and “running on an extreme agenda that is already proving to be a significant liability for key voting blocs that are critical to the pathway to 270 electoral votes”.

By contrast, Ms Rodriguez and Ms Dillon say Mr Biden’s team “maintains a historic and growing grassroots-powered war chest” — a cash advantage of more than $40m according to Federal Election Commission reports — and is starting the general election “well-prepared and well-positioned to win”.

“Building off of last night’s momentum, tomorrow evening’s State of the Union address will provide the American people with the latest example of the stark choice they will be confronted with in November between President Biden, who remains laser-focused on delivering for the American people while running on a historically popular record of accomplishment, and Donald Trump, whose failed record and dark vision for this country is as dangerous as it is unpopular with the voters who will decide this election,” they said.

Mr Biden is also understood to be personally eager to pivot to a general election mode and take on Mr Trump more directly.

According to a source familiar with his thinking, his decision to run for a second term at age 81 was in large part driven by his belief that he is the only figure in the Democratic Party who can beat the former president, given he was the one who defeated him back in 2020.

But since that last election, Mr Trump has only consolidated his hold over the Republican Party despite facing more than 90 criminal charges in four separate jurisdictions, including felony charges in New York for which he will go on trial later this month.

The Biden campaign has so far been reluctant to go after Mr Trump with attacks based on his legal troubles. A campaign source has told The Independent that this is because of a directive from Mr Biden, who does not want to be seen as politicising the charges against the disgraced former president.

Nonetheless, Mr Trump’s legal problems weigh heavily on his campaign, even if his supporters consider the charges illegitimate, because his need to pay millions of dollars in legal fees takes away from his ability to use funds raised from supporters for his actual campaign.

By contrast, Mr Biden’s cash advantage gives him a free hand to go after Mr Trump with a massive blitz of digital and television advertising.

Since Mr Biden launched his re-election bid last April, his campaign has raised more than $280m and it had $130m in cash-on-hand last month.

Combined with what is expected to be $700m or more in pro-Biden spending by outside groups, Mr Trump and the Republican National Committee could be significantly outmatched both in the air and on the ground.