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Peace through strength more likely under Trump

Obrien, 2-18, 2024, ROBERT C. O’BRIEN served as U.S. National Security Adviser from 2019 to 2021, Foreign Affairs, The Return of Peace Through Strength Making the Case for Trump’s Foreign Policy, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/return-peace-strength-trump-obrien

And Trump was a peacemaker—a fact obscured by false portrayals of him but perfectly clear when one looks at the record. Just in the final 16 months of his administration, the United States facilitated the Abraham Accords, bringing peace to Israel and three of its neighbors in the Middle East plus Sudan; Serbia and Kosovo agreed to U.S.-brokered economic normalization; Washington successfully pushed Egypt and key Gulf states to settle their rift with Qatar and end their blockade of the emirate; and the United States entered into an agreement with the Taliban that prevented any American combat deaths in Afghanistan for nearly the entire final year of the Trump administration. Trump was determined to avoid new wars and endless counterinsurgency operations, and his presidency was the first since that of Jimmy Carter in which the United States did not enter a new war or expand an existing conflict. Trump also ended one war with a rare U.S. victory, wiping out the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) as an organized military force and eliminating its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. But unlike during Carter’s term, under Trump, U.S. adversaries did not exploit Americans’ preference for peace. In the Trump years, Russia did not press further forward after its 2014 invasion of Ukraine, Iran did not dare to directly attack Israel, and North Korea stopped testing nuclear weapons after a combination of diplomatic outreach and a U.S. military show of force. And although China maintained an aggressive posture during Trump’s time in office, its leadership surely noted Trump’s determination to enforce redlines when, for example, he ordered a limited but effective air attack on Syria in 2017, after Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against its own people. A second Trump term would see the return of realism with a Jacksonian flavor. Trump has never aspired to promulgate a “Trump Doctrine” for the benefit of the Washington foreign policy establishment. He adheres not to dogma but to his own instincts and to traditional American principles that run deeper than the globalist orthodoxies of recent decades. “America first is not America alone” is a mantra often repeated by Trump administration officials, and for good reason: Trump recognizes that a successful foreign policy requires joining forces with friendly governments and people elsewhere. The fact that Trump took a new look at which countries and groups were most pertinent does not make him purely transactional or an isolationist hostile to alliances, as his critics claim. NATO and U.S. cooperation with Japan, Israel, and the Arab Gulf states were all militarily strengthened when Trump was president. Trump’s foreign policy and trade policy can be accurately understood as a reaction to the shortcomings of neoliberal internationalism, or globalism, as practiced from the early 1990s until 2017. Like many American voters, Trump grasped that “free trade” has been nothing of the sort in practice and in many instances involved foreign governments using high tariffs, barriers to trade, and the theft of intellectual property to harm U.S. economic and security interests. And despite hefty military spending, Washington’s national security apparatus enjoyed few victories after the 1991 Gulf War while suffering a number of notable failures in places such as Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Trump thinks highly of his predecessor Andrew Jackson and Jackson’s approach to foreign policy: be focused and forceful when compelled to action but wary of overreach. A second Trump term would see the return of realism with a Jacksonian flavor. Washington’s friends would be more secure and more self-reliant, and its foes would once again fear American power. The United States would be strong, and there would be peace. WHAT HAPPENED? In the early 1990s, the world seemed to be on the cusp of a second “American century.” The Iron Curtain had fallen, and the countries of Eastern Europe had cashiered communism and abandoned the Warsaw Pact, lining up to join Western Europe and the rest of the free world. The Soviet Union passed into history in 1991. Holdouts to the tide of freedom, such as China, seemed set to liberalize, at least economically, and posed no imminent threat to the United States. The Gulf War vindicated the previous decade’s U.S. military buildup and helped confirm that the world had just one superpower. Contrast that situation to today. China has become a formidable military and economic adversary. It routinely threatens democratic Taiwan. Its coast guard and de facto maritime militia are in a prolonged state of low-intensity conflict with the Philippines, a treaty ally of the United States, which could spark a wider war in the South China Sea. Beijing is now Washington’s foremost foe in cyberspace, regularly attacking U.S. business and government networks. China’s unfair trade and business practices have harmed the American economy and made the United States dependent on China for manufactured goods and even some essential pharmaceuticals. And although China’s model has nothing like the ideological appeal to Third World revolutionaries and Western radicals that Soviet communism held in the mid-twentieth century, China’s political leadership under Xi Jinping nonetheless has had enough confidence to reverse economic reforms, crush freedom in Hong Kong, and pick fights with Washington and many of its partners. Xi is China’s most dangerous leader since the murderous Mao Zedong. And China has yet to be held to account for the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in Wuhan. China now has a committed and useful junior partner in Moscow, as well. In 2018, a year after leaving office as vice president, Joe Biden co-authored an article in these pages titled “How to Stand Up to the Kremlin.” But Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 demonstrated that Moscow was hardly deterred by his tough talk. The war has also exposed the shameful truth that NATO’s European members are unprepared for a new combat environment that combines innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence with low-tech but lethal drones and century-old artillery. Joining China and Russia in an emerging axis of anti-American autocracies is Iran. Like the regimes in Beijing and Moscow, the theocracy in Tehran has grown bolder. With seeming impunity, its leaders frequently threaten the United States and its allies. Iran has now amassed enough enriched uranium to build a basic nuclear weapon in less than two weeks, if it chose to do so, according to the most authoritative estimates. Iran’s proxies, including Hamas, kidnap and kill Americans. And in April, for the first time, Iran attacked Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East, Israel, directly from Iranian territory, firing hundreds of drones and missiles. The picture closer to home is hardly any better. In Mexico, drug cartels form a parallel government in some areas and traffic people and illegal drugs into the United States. Venezuela is a belligerent basket case. And the Biden administration’s inability to secure the southern U.S. border is perhaps its biggest and most embarrassing failure. CLARITY ON CHINA This morass of American weakness and failure cries out for a Trumpian restoration of peace through strength. Nowhere is that need more urgent than in the contest with China. From the beginning of his presidential term, Biden has sent mixed messages about the threat posed by Beijing. Although Biden has retained tariffs and export controls enacted by Trump, he has also sent cabinet-level officials on a series of visits to Beijing, where they have delivered firm warnings about trade and security but also extended an olive branch, promising to restore some forms of the cooperation with China that existed before the Trump administration. This is a policy of pageantry over substance. Meetings and summits are activities, not achievements. Meanwhile, Beijing pays close attention to what the president and his top advisers say in public. Biden has referred to China’s economy as a “ticking time bomb” but also stated plainly, “I don’t want to contain China” and “We’re not looking to hurt China—sincerely. We’re all better off if China does well.” To believe such pablum is to believe that China is not truly an adversary.

Trump better for Middle East peace

Obrien, 2-18, 2024, ROBERT C. O’BRIEN served as U.S. National Security Adviser from 2019 to 2021, Foreign Affairs, The Return of Peace Through Strength Making the Case for Trump’s Foreign Policy, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/return-peace-strength-trump-obrien

The true source of tumult in the Middle East is Iran’s theocratic regime. Joint military exercises with such countries are essential. Trump disinvited China from the annual Rim of the Pacific war games in 2018: a good defensive team does not invite its most likely opponent to witness planning and practice. (China, naturally, sent spy ships to observe.) Congress indicated in 2022 that the United States should invite Taiwan to join the exercises. But Biden has refused to do so—a mistake that must be remedied. Taiwan spends around $19 billion annually on its defense, which amounts to just under three percent of its annual economic output. Although that is better than most U.S. allies and partners, it is still too little. Other countries in this increasingly dangerous region also need to spend more. And Taiwan’s shortcoming is not solely its own fault: past U.S. administrations have sent mixed signals about Washington’s willingness to supply Taiwan with arms and help defend it. The next administration should make clear that along with a continued U.S. commitment comes an expectation that Taiwan spend more on defense and take other steps, as well, such as expanding military conscription. Meanwhile, Congress should help build up the armed forces of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam by extending to them the kinds of grants, loans, and weapons transfers that the United States has long offered Israel. The Philippines, in particular, needs rapid support in its standoff with Chinese forces in the South China Sea. The navy should undertake a crash program to refurbish decommissioned ships and then donate them to the Philippines, including frigates and amphibious assault ships sitting in reserve in Philadelphia and Hawaii. The navy should also move one of its aircraft carriers from the Atlantic to the Pacific, andthe Pentagon should consider deploying the entire Marine Corps to the Pacific, relieving it in particular of missions in the Middle East and North Africa. U.S. bases in the Pacific often lack adequate missile defenses and fighter jet protection—a scandalous deficiency that the Defense Department should fix by quickly shifting resources from elsewhere. THE RETURN OF MAXIMUM PRESSURE Another region where the Biden administration has demonstrated little strength and thus brought little peace is the Middle East. Biden entered office determined to ostracize Saudi Arabia for human rights violations—but also to resume the Obama-era policy of negotiating with Iran, a far worse violator of human rights. This approach alienated Saudi Arabia, an important partner and energy exporter, and did nothing to tame Iran, which has become demonstrably more violent in the past four years. Allies in the Middle East and beyond saw these actions as evidence of American weakness and unreliability and have pursued foreign policies more independent of Washington. Iran itself has felt free to attack Israel, U.S. forces, and American partners through proxies and directly. In contrast, the Trump administration carried out a campaign of maximum pressure on Iran, including by insisting that European countries comply with U.S. and UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic. This show of resolve rallied important U.S. partners such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and paved the way for the Abraham Accords. When U.S. allies see renewed American determination to contain the Islamist regime in Tehran, they will join with Washington and help bring peace to a region that is crucial to energy markets and global capital markets. Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred during the Biden administration, which has failed to enforce existing sanctions on Iranian oil exports. In recent months, those exports reached a six-year high, exceeding 1.5 million barrels per day. The easing of sanctions enforcement has been a bonanza for Iran’s government and its military, netting them tens of billions of dollars a year. Restoring the Trump crackdown will curtail Iran’s ability to fund terrorist proxy forces in the Middle East and beyond. Biden’s problems began in the Middle East when he tried to reenter the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal that Trump pulled out of in 2018, having recognized it as a failure. Far from eliminating or even freezing Iran’s nuclear program, the deal had sanctified it, allowing Iran to retain centrifuges that it has used to amass nearly enough uranium for a bomb. A return to Trump’s policy of maximum pressure would include the full enforcement of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s energy sector, applying them not only to Iran but also to governments and organizations that buy Iranian oil and gas. Maximum pressure would also mean deploying more maritime and aviation assets to the Middle East, making it clear not only to Tehran but also to American allies that the U.S. military’s focus in the region was on deterring Iran, finally moving past the counterinsurgency orientation of the past two decades. A stronger policy to counter Iran would also lead to a more productive approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is once again roiling the region. For decades, the conventional wisdom held that resolving that dispute was the key to improving security in the Middle East. But the conflict has become more of a symptom than a cause of tumult in the region, the true source of which is Iran’s revolutionary, theocratic regime. Tehran provides critical funding, arms, intelligence, and strategic guidance to an array of groups that threaten Israel’s security—not just Hamas, which sparked the current war in Gaza with its barbaric October 7 attack on Israel, but also the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah and the Houthi militia in Yemen. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be solved until Iran is contained—and until Palestinian extremists stop trying to eliminate the Jewish state. In the meantime, the United States should continue to back Israel as it seeks to eliminate Hamas in Gaza. The long-term governance and status of the territory are not for Washington to dictate; the United States should support Israel, Egypt, and U.S. allies in the Gulf as they grapple with that problem. But Washington should not pressure Israel to return to negotiations over a long-term solution to the broader conflict with the Palestinians. The focus of U.S. policy in the Middle East should remain the malevolent actor that is ultimately most responsible for the turmoil and killing: the Iranian regime.

Trump has a better chance of ending the Ukraine war

Obrien, 2-18, 2024, ROBERT C. O’BRIEN served as U.S. National Security Adviser from 2019 to 2021, Foreign Affairs, The Return of Peace Through Strength Making the Case for Trump’s Foreign Policy, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/return-peace-strength-trump-obrien

FROM KABUL TO KYIV Biden also drastically weakened American statecraft through his catastrophic mismanagement of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Trump administration negotiated the deal that brought an end to U.S. involvement in the war, but Trump would never have allowed for such a chaotic and embarrassing retreat. One can draw a direct line from the fecklessness of the pullout in the summer of 2021 to the decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to attack Ukraine six months later. After Russia brushed off Biden’s warnings about the consequences of invading Ukraine and attacked anyway, Biden offered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky the means to leave Kyiv, which would have repeated Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s ignominious flight from Kabul the summer before. Fortunately, Zelensky declined the offer. The Biden administration has since provided significant military aid to Ukraine but has often dragged its feet in sending Kyiv the kinds of weapons it needs to succeed. The $61 billion Congress recently appropriated for Ukraine—on top of the $113 billion already approved—is probably sufficient to prevent Ukraine from losing, but not enough to enable it to win. Meanwhile, Biden does not seem to have a plan to end the war. Trump, for his part, has made clear that he would like to see a negotiated settlement to the war that ends the killing and preserves the security of Ukraine. Trump’s approach would be to continue to provide lethal aid to Ukraine, financed by European countries, while keeping the door open to diplomacy with Russia—and keeping Moscow off balance with a degree of unpredictability. He would also push NATO to rotate ground and air forces to Poland to augment its capabilities closer to Russia’s border and to make unmistakably clear that the alliance will defend all its territory from foreign aggression. Washington should make sure that its European allies understand that the continued American defense of Europe is contingent on Europe doing its part—including in Ukraine. If Europe wants to show that it is serious about defending Ukraine, it should admit the country to the European Union immediately, waiving the usual bureaucratic accession protocol. Such a move would send a strong message to Putin that the West will not cede Ukraine to Moscow. It would also give hope to the Ukrainian people that better days lie ahead.

Trump more likely to sustain alliances

Obrien, 2-18, 2024, ROBERT C. O’BRIEN served as U.S. National Security Adviser from 2019 to 2021, Foreign Affairs, The Return of Peace Through Strength Making the Case for Trump’s Foreign Policy, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/return-peace-strength-trump-obrien

KNOW YOUR ENEMY—AND YOUR FRIENDS A more efficient military alone, however, will not be enough to thwart and deter the new Beijing-Moscow-Tehran axis. Doing so will also require strong alliances among the free countries of the world. Building alliances will be just as important in a second Trump term as it was in the first one. Although critics often depicted Trump as hostile to traditional alliances, in reality, he enhanced most of them. Trump never canceled or postponed a single deployment to NATO. His pressure on NATO governments to spend more on defense made the alliance stronger. Biden administration officials like to pay lip service to the importance of alliances, and Biden says that he believes the United States is engaged in a contest pitting allied democracies against rival autocracies. But the administration undermines its own putative mission when it questions the democratic bona fides of conservative elected leaders in countries allied with the United States, including the former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Polish President Andrzej Duda. In fact, these leaders are responsive to the desires of their people and seek to defend democracy, but through policies different from those espoused by the kind of people who like to hobnob in Davos. The Biden administration, however, seems less interested in fostering good relations with real-world democratic allies than in defending fictional abstractions such as “the rules-based international order.” Such rhetoric reflects a globalist, liberal elitism that masquerades as support for democratic ideals. Criticism of those democratic leaders is all the more galling when compared with how little attention Biden officials pay to dissidents in authoritarian states. The president and his top aides seldom follow the approach of former presidents who spotlighted detained dissidents to illustrate authoritarian abuses and highlight the superiority of the free world’s model of inalienable individual rights and the rule of law. Carter personally wrote to the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. Reagan met with the Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky in the Oval Office and met with others in the U.S. embassy in Moscow. In contrast, Biden has rarely spoken publicly about individual dissidents—people such as Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong publisher and democracy advocate whom Chinese officials have imprisoned on sham charges. Although the State Department has issued protestations about China’s treatment of its citizens, they have come against a backdrop of high-level, unconditional engagement with China that features no serious human rights component. Trump’s pressure on NATO governments to spend more on defense made the alliance stronger. Trump, for his part, preferred to focus more on Americans unjustly detained abroad than on dissidents, in an effort to build relationships with foreign leaders and give dictators such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un a chance to come in from the cold. But he did pay attention to opposition forces in authoritarian states that are U.S. rivals. In January 2020, after I publicly expressed hope that the people of Iran would someday be able to choose their own leaders, Trump followed up on social media: “Don’t kill your protestors,” he admonished the theocrats in Tehran. A second Trump term would see stepped-up presidential-level attention to dissidents and political forces that can challenge U.S. adversaries. This effort would build on past actions, such as when Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and other senior officials met with activists seeking freedom in China and when Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger addressed the Chinese people in Mandarin from the White House and gave voice to many of their concerns about the repressive rule of the Chinese Communist Party. Some might say that it is hypocritical for the United States to condemn some repressive governments, such as those in China and Iran, while partnering with others, such as Arab nondemocracies. But it is important to consider countries’ capacities to change. Most Arab monarchies today are more open and liberal than they were ten or 20 years ago—partly because of engagement with the United States. The same cannot be said of the Chinese or Iranian governments, which have become more repressive and aggressive toward their neighbors. The United States is not perfect, and its security does not require every nation on earth to resemble it politically. Throughout much of U.S. history, most Americans believed it was sufficient to stand as a model to others rather than to attempt to impose a political system on others. But Americans should not underestimate what their country has achieved or downplay the success of the American experiment in lifting people at home and abroad out of repression, poverty, and insecurity.

Biden credibility and electoral prospects collapsing

Michael Goodwin, 6-15, 24, New York Post, Joe Biden’s rough stretch continues as his debate with Donald Trump is on the horizon, https://nypost.com/2024/06/15/opinion/joe-bidens-rough-stretch-continues-as-his-debate-with-donald-trump-is-on-the-horizon/

A common refrain in politics is that two weeks is a lifetime, meaning big changes can happen quickly. Joe Biden better hope they do. As he prepares for his debate with Donald Trump next week, the president is mired in a losing streak. He has experienced rough weeks throughout his troubled term, but last week was one of the worst. Amid rock-bottom approval numbers, Biden suffered a major blow with son Hunter Biden’s conviction on three federal gun felonies in a case brought by the president’s Department of Justice. Still looming is a September trial on charges Hunter committed federal tax fraud and evasion. Burdened by what must have been a mix of fury and grief, the president nonetheless had to board Air Force One for the G-7 meeting in Italy. It was his second trip to Europe in 10 days and the wear and tear on the 81-year old president was obvious. Without First Lady Jill Biden by his side to direct him, he looked more confused than usual and at one point had to be herded back to the group by Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, whom Biden weirdly saluted when they met. Coming just after the White House Juneteenth celebration, where Biden’s hands and body stood frozen as people around him clapped and swayed to music, the behavior stoked concern among his peers. G-7 insiders talked of him “losing focus” during discussions, with one saying Biden’s condition is “the worst he has ever been,” according to media reports. ‘Sleep well, big guy?’ Another unidentified attendee said Biden’s missteps were “embarrassing.” Then there was the faux pas of French President Emmanuel Macron, who approached Biden on the morning of Day 2 and asked, “Sleep well, big guy?” Oops. It must have been lost in translation to Macron that “big guy” was Biden’s nickname in his family’s influence-peddling scheme. Finally, the president had a public dust-up with core supporters — the American media. When he scolded a reporter for asking a question that veered off topic, the White House Correspondents Association issued a sharp statement declaring that “there are no preconditions regarding question topics” and took a slap at the president for not holding more news conferences. The chain of events is not the run-up Biden wanted for the June 27 debate with Trump, an early showdown that Biden demanded. It was a bold bet to try to energize a demoralized party and head off Trump’s momentum before the conventions, but the debate now looms as a crucial test of Biden’s mental and physical fitness. Television and digital audiences will be enormous, but Biden faces an uphill battle to persuade even half the nation he’s ready for four more years. An astounding 86% of voters think he’s too old for a second term, according to an ABC/Ipsos survey. A New York Times poll found that 61% of those who voted for him in 2020 think Biden is “just too old” to be an effective president. That would seem to be more than trouble enough, yet the president is also dogged by major policy failures. The open southern border is widely seen as a calamity that will take years to resolve. The economy, including inflation, also gets a thumbs-down from most Americans, and there is wide belief that Biden’s weak leadership is provoking global turmoil. The White House’s obsession with imposing coercive cultural and environmental policies also work in Trump’s favor.

Undecided voters in six swing states will decide the election

James Fitzgerald, 6-15, 24, Six swing states set to decide the US election, https://www.bbc.com/news/articles/c511pyn3xw3o

About 240 million people are eligible to vote in this year’s US election, but only a relatively small number of them are likely to settle the question of who becomes the next president. Experts believe there are only a handful of states that could plausibly be won by either Democratic President Joe Biden or his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump. Six of them – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – appear to be on a knife edge and probably hold the key to who will take the White House. So both parties are campaigning intensively to win over undecided voters in these states.

6% of voters will decide the election

Zachary Basu, 6-15, 24, https://www.axios.com/2024/06/15/double-haters-biden-trump-favorability, The dread election: Share of “double haters” hits historic high

The big picture: Top strategists say the race is likely to be decided by 6% of voters in six swing states. Many of them will hold their nose and pick a candidate they dislike in November.

Election is 50/50, so the DA should be decided by the link

Elliot Morris, 6-11, 24, https://abcnews.go.com/538/trump-biden-tied-538s-new-election-forecast/story?id=110789256

Today 538 published our official forecast for the 2024 presidential election. The model builds on our general election polling averages by asking not just what our best guess is about who is leading the presidential race today, but what range of outcomes are possible for the actual election in November. At least once per day, we’ll rerun our simulations of the election with the latest data, so bookmark our interactive and check back often. At launch, our forecast shows President Joe Biden locked in a practically tied race with former President Donald Trump, both in the Electoral College and national popular vote. Specifically, our model reckons Biden has a 53-in-100 chance of winning the election, meaning he wins in slightly more than half of our model’s simulations of how the election could unfold. However, Trump still has a 47-in-100 chance, so this election could still very much go either way. The range of realistic* Electoral College outcomes generated by our forecasting model stretches from 132 to 445 electoral votes for Biden — a testament to how much things could change by November (and how off the polls could be). Our model is brand new this year, with tons of bells and whistles and modern statistical tools that you can read all about in our methodology post. Here, I’ll give you the non-wonky version of how the forecast works, offer a few tips on how to read it and explain why we think forecasts are valuable in the first place. How we forecast To forecast the election, we rely primarily on polls asking voters whom they support. However, our forecast also incorporates various economic and political indicators that aren’t related to polling but can be used to make rough predictions for the election. For example, we have calculated an index of economic growth and optimism on every day since 1944, gathered historical approval ratings for every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt and derived a formula for predicting state election outcomes using these and other local factors. We also tested whether incumbent presidents do better when they run for reelection (they do) and whether all of these factors are less predictive of voters’ choices when political polarization is high (they are). Right now, Trump leads Biden in most polls of the swing states that will decide the election, but the “fundamentals” favor Biden. The combined polls-plus-fundamentals forecast splits the difference between these two viewpoints and arrives at an essentially deadlocked race. Here’s what it looks like on the state level: At this point in the race, our margin of error for these state forecasts is huge. There are two reasons for this: First, it is early. As pollsters are bound to remind you many times between now and November, polls are snapshots of public opinion as it stands today, not predictions of vote share in the eventual election. To the extent they are predictions at all, they predict how people would vote if an election were held today — which, of course, it will not be. In part, this oft-repeated caveat is a convenient way for pollsters to avoid catching flak for inaccurate numbers closer to the election. But there is an important truth to it: If a voter has not yet cast their ballot, there is the possibility they may change their mind. We also don’t know exactly who is going to turn out in this election yet. All this means polls earlier in the election cycle are worse at approximating the final margin. This is where forecasting models really become useful. Above everything else, 538 makes forecasts to quantify the uncertainty inherent in the election. Our study of historical presidential election polls finds that the margin between the two candidates shifts by an average of 9 percentage points between June and November. In practical terms, that means today’s polls have a true margin of error of close to 20 points. And while recent elections have not had as much volatility, we can’t assume 2024 will be the same way; it’s possible that this year will be closer to the historical norm. The second major source of error is the chance that polls systematically underestimate one of the candidates, as happened in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. We estimate that, even on Election Day, state-level polling averages of presidential general elections have an expected error of 4 points on the margin — meaning if the candidates are tied in the polling average, then on average we’d expect one to win by 4, and in rare cases they could win by 8! Why forecast, anyway? Having such wide margins of error is not our way of absolving ourselves of responsibility if the election result is surprising. It’s our way of giving you, the reader, a more informed understanding of the range of potential election outcomes than you’d get from a single poll (or even a polling average) Over the last decade, it has become common to view election forecasting — and even polling — as purely making predictions of “what will happen” in the election. But we think forecasting models serve a greater journalistic purpose than a focus on prediction gives them credit for. For us here at 538, forecasting is an exercise in quantifying the reliability of various indicators of public opinion. Yes, that involves making predictions, but the real value of our work is the statistical analysis of the reliability of the numbers you are bound to see plastered all over print news media, social media and television over the next five months. We think this is a different goal from making predictions for prediction’s sake, or making a model that can “call” every state correctly. If you want someone to give you a prediction of who will win the election with absolute certainty, then look elsewhere. (And buyer beware.) Instead, we think we offer a unique product that can help you be smarter about the way you think about the range of outcomes for the election. As the stakes of our politics increase, a carefully calibrated sense of what could realistically happen in November — in our case, from a forecast that properly distinguishes between normal and tail risk — becomes increasingly valuable. How to read the forecast On that note, I’ll end with a few tips on how to read our forecast responsibly: Watch the distributions. Our model simulates thousands of possible Electoral College outcomes based on the historical predictive error of the indicators we rely on. The top of our forecast page has a histogram of a random subset of these simulations, showing you which outcomes are likelier than others. We hope you get the impression that there is a wide potential range of outcomes, given all the error we’re talking about. Unlikely does not mean impossible. In 2020, polls performed worse than in any election since 1980. The average state-level poll conducted in the last three weeks of that election overestimated Biden’s vote margin by 4.6 points — about 1.5 times the average 3-point bias for presidential elections since 1972. In a backtest of our current model, we would have assigned about a 20 percent chance to Biden winning 306 electoral votes (the number he actually won) or fewer in 2020. We think a similar miss this year would be statistically surprising, but a possibility people should mentally prepare for. Changes in public opinion take time. We have done our best to make a model that reacts the appropriate amount to new polling data. “Appropriate” here means that the model will be conservative early on or when polls are bouncing generally around the same level, but also that it will be aggressive when polls appear to be moving uniformly across states — especially late in the campaign. However, as a properly Bayesian statistical model, the program that runs our forecast generates some amount of uncertainty about the parameters, resulting in unavoidable random error across our simulations. This means polling averages can change by a few decimal places day to day — and probabilities may jitter by around a point, which cascades down into uncertainty in our model. Don’t sweat these small changes; instead, pay attention to bigger changes in the model over longer stretches of time.

 

Herman, 5-28, 24, Arthur Herman is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, Toward a New Pax Americana, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/toward-new-pax-americana-211126?page=0%2C2

It even survived—and arguably was strengthened—by four years of President Donald Trump, whom critics feared would wreck the world liberal order, but who, in fact, extended American influence in the Middle East with a series of Abraham Accords and by destroying ISIS by force of arms; strengthened our ties to both Japan and Taiwan; revived the Monroe Doctrine by negotiating a more secure southern border with Mexico and Latin American states; and confronted China’s economic and military threat to American primacy, for the first time. What the Pax Americana could not survive, however, was abject surrender. Despite President Barack Obama’s claims that he rejected a declinist view of American power, his pullout from Iraq and the Middle East in order to execute a much-vaunted but largely non-existent “Pacific pivot,” his acquiescence to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and overseeing eight years of cutbacks in military spending as well as the withdrawal of missile defense from Eastern Europe; opened the “EXIT” doors for an American retreat from world affairs. The Biden administration has managed to turn retreat into full-scale flight. Its record has been cumulative from its earliest days in office, starting with the abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan. A break with Saudi Arabia followed, frustrating hopes of a new round of Abraham Accord-style agreements between Israel and its neighbors—then, a belated and timid response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, despite multiple warning signs that an attack was imminent. The administration decided on an increasingly passive attitude toward China, including its encroachment on U.S. sovereign territory. Moreover, Biden refused to respond effectively to challenges by Iranian proxies in Syria, Iraq, and the Red Sea and widened the breach with Israel over the conduct of its war against Hamas. Meanwhile, the China-Russia-Iran axis has grown more influential and bolder, including openly coordinating their revisionist approach to global affairs, as U.S. influence has ebbed. At the same time, public support for a United States strongly engaged in world affairs has also retreated. In Congress, bipartisan support for American leadership in peace and war, supposedly the keystone for our foreign and defense policy for decades under the old Pax Americana, has broken down.

America 1st means China global dominance

Herman, 5-28, 24, Arthur Herman is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, Toward a New Pax Americana, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/toward-new-pax-americana-211126?page=0%2C2

Meanwhile, an open and chaotic southern border has become an ugly symbol of what the new post-nationalist America will really look like, instead of the hopeful picture Zakaria and others had forecast. The second pathway has gained popularity in Republican circles, namely a “Fortress America” approach toward securing our border but also cutting back on our traditional global commitments, including even withdrawing from NATO. This is Trump’s America First policy on steroids, as expressed by public figures like Tucker Carlson and epitomized by members of the House Freedom Caucus. It has triggered a growing unwillingness among GOP lawmakers to support Ukraine in its war with Russia. Some have even cast doubt about the priority of aiding Israel versus securing the southern border. The very fact that these are seen as mutually exclusive options is a measure of the Fortress America mindset but also the erosion of Pax Americana as an issue where politics “stops at the water’s edge.” If this pathway proves successful over the long term, it will mean a strategic posture focused more on hemispheric defense, starting with securing the southern border and defeating the Mexican drug cartels. Like the post-American version, however, this will mean largely abandoning the rest of the field to China and possibly Russia, especially in Eastern Europe (ironically the most active hub of NATO in the wake of the Ukraine invasion) and Central Asia. On the bright side, an America First agenda could mean a stronger domestic economy, one protected by anti-Chinese tariffs and various Made In America initiatives meant to reduce dependence on Chinese manufacturing and supply chains. It will also be committed to strengthening energy independence and rebuilding our defense industrial base—a cornerstone of the old Pax Americana. But inevitably, a strategic retreat of this kind means losing out to China with traditional trading partners as European capitals and New Delhi adjust to a world order dominated by Beijing rather than Washington—one in which our own military may adopt a rigid Maginot Line-style defensive strategy rather than the confident flexible response that characterized its Pax Americana predecessor.

Swing state economies mean Trump wins

Viktor Raklaitis, 5-23, 24, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-may-be-positioned-to-win-because-swing-state-voters-dislike-bidenomics-cook-political-report-says-3081bdca?mod=MW_article_top_stories, Trump may be ‘positioned to win’ because swing-state voters dislike ‘Bidenomics,’ Cook Political Report says

The 2024 White House race is close, but presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump appears to have the edge at the moment thanks in large part to swing-state voters frustrated with President Joe Biden’s handling of the U.S. economy, said analysts at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report on Thursday as they rolled out a new poll.

Tump will win

Henry Olsen, 5-20, 24, Daily Telegraph, Biden is denying reality – he’s losing this election, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/us/comment/2024/05/20/joe-biden-polls-battleground-states-election-campaign/, Exclusive: Largest rent increases are in swing states. Will it spell trouble for Biden?

One cannot help but sense that the Biden campaign is getting worried. They are right to be. Outwardly, the campaign projects supreme confidence. It regularly trashes Trump and the Republicans in press releases and has spent tens of millions of dollars on ads to press the point. It shrugs off polls that usually show the president behind nationally and, more crucially, in all the key swing states. The campaign cannot credibly proclaim that all is well, but neither have they openly adopted the underdog status the polls seem to confer. And yet. There’s less than six months until Election Day – only four months until early voting starts in three states – and Biden remains behind. One has to go back to 1992 to find a candidate who won the popular vote when trailing at this point. Given Trump’s advantage in the Electoral College – he likely carries it even if, as in 2016, he loses the popular vote by 2-3 points – and it’s clear Biden is running against recent history. A closer look at the data is even worse for him. Biden’s job approval remains mired at historic lows for a first term president at this point. He is stuck at around 40 per cent, a level that is lower than Trump’s was at the same point. All the ads, the favorable media treatment, and gradual drop in inflation have done nothing to help him. The campaign surely knows that no American president since at least Harry Truman in 1948 has won re-election with such dire polls. That probably explains Biden’s surprise gambit to challenge Trump to a debate on June 27. Incumbents typically avoid debates unless forced to. The fact that Biden not only wants a debate but wants one before either man has been officially nominated by their party shows he tacitly knows he’s in a big hole and needs something fast to change the momentum. That early debate date signals something else, something no one yet wants to seriously discuss: the possibility that Biden may yet drop out.

Checks on Trump

Eric Cortellessa, April 30, 2024, How Far Will Trump Go? Time, https://time.com/6972021/donald-trump-2024-election-interview/

The courts, the Constitution, and a Congress of unknown composition would all have a say in whether Trump’s objectives come to pass. The machinery of Washington has a range of defenses: leaks to a free press, whistle-blower protections, the oversight of inspectors general. The same deficiencies of temperament and judgment that hindered him in the past remain present. If he wins, Trump would be a lame duck—contrary to the suggestions of some supporters, he tells TIME he would not seek to overturn or ignore the Constitution’s prohibition on a third term. Public opinion would also be a powerful check. Amid a popular outcry, Trump was forced to scale back some of his most draconian first-term initiatives, including the policy of separating migrant families. As George Orwell wrote in 1945, the ability of governments to carry out their designs “depends on the general temper in the country.”