Now that the competitive portion of the major-party presidential primary season is over, with losers Nikki Haley (GOP) and Rep. Dean Phillips (D–Minn.) hanging around essentially as life insurance policies, Americans have 287 long days to let the reality they despise sink in: The two least popular presidents of the modern era, depressingly known quantities both, will stagger into election day at a combined 160 years of age to face an electorate howlingly dissatisfied about the direction of the country.
The sheer length of known-nominee season, unprecedented in American history, will likely play against the candidate who at the moment seems to have the head-to-head advantage: Donald Trump. That’s partly because the people most inclined to vote against Trump—Democrats and independents—have been in denial about him winning a third consecutive GOP presidential nomination.
A The Economist/YouGov poll taken January 7-9 showed just 45 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents believed that Trump would become the Republican nominee. The Biden campaign claimed pre-Iowa caucus that a majority of undecided voters did not grok that Trump would win. “Once you get to that head-to-head,” a senior Biden campaign official told CNN, “the dynamics change. The world is different.”
Biden needs that hopeful spin to become reality, since up until this point in the 2024 campaign he has persistently lagged Trump among the bloc that decides most presidential races: independents. Trump squee…