Events That Could Change the Election

Inspired somewhat by Josh Barro’s recent observation at The Hill that the present state of the U. S. economy is likely to persist through November, I thought I’d list some events that might have a considerable effect on the presidential election other than the economy.

Ukraine, facing defeat, sues for peace

This is actually not unlikely. Disheartening as it would be for the Ukrainians I suspect this scenario would actually improve President Biden’s political prospects. Democrats would certainly blame Republicans and Donald Trump in particular for the loss.

Russia sues for peace

Let’s consider the flip side of that coin. IMO this, too, would improve President Biden’s political prospects. He should be able to claim that his strategy in supporting Ukraine had been successful.

Israel defeats Hamas

Would this have any effect on our election one way or the other? I don’t think I see it. Since I also believe that the surviving members of Hamas (and there will be surviving members of Hamas if only in other countries) will claim victory regardless of the outcome, I don’t this affecting the outcome of our election one way or the other.

In honesty I don’t think that any of the events above would be likely to have a material effect on the presidential election. Although there are a few who would say otherwise I don’t believe that most Americans care that much about what happens in other countries.

President Biden withdraws from the campaign

Perversely, I think this eventuality is the most likely to deliver a victory to the Democrats in the fall whoever would become their presidential standard-bearer. Frankly, I doubt that this would happen. See the alternative events below.

President Trump withdraws from the campaign

I doubt this will happen, either. Indeed, I think that even if President Trump is convicted of everything he’s been indicted for in all jurisdictions, he’ll be running for president from his prison cell.

President Biden dies or is incapacitated

I think that what happens in the event of President Biden’s death or disability prior to the election depends on timing. If he’s already been named the party’s candidate, his running mate, who will inevitably be Kamala Harris, does not automatically become the nominee or even the frontrunner. The party leadership would decide who would become the candidate.

President Trump dies or is incapacitated

I would be remiss in not considering the possibility of an elderly, overweight, out-of-shape man experiencing some sort of debilitating health issue, even death, over the next several months. I honestly have no idea who the Republican nominee would be if Donald Trump were unable to run.

Major terrorist attack on the U. S.

IMO a terrorist attack would be politically disastrous for President Biden unless it were perceived that President Trump had encouraged the attack in which case it would be disastrous for him.

I would be interested in hearing the views of other on the eventualities above or anything else you think might swing the election one way or the other.

19 comments… add one
  • Grey Shambler Link

    A misstep or mistake unequivocally draws NATO and the US into the Ukrainian conflict. This benefits the incumbent in two ways, first, patriotism and nationalism. Second, President Trump, who still today dominates the news cycle, would be relegated to the third page.
    The war, not the election squabble, would dominate and voters would feel it was no time to rock the boat.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    Political violence, whether it is between supporters of the two candidates or (God forbid) directed at one of the candidates.

    A major natural disaster (hurricanes, wildfires, or earthquakes as the most likely), which would help Biden unless the Government response is seen as mismanaged.

    A major surge in illegal immigration. Its sort of a loop, the more Biden is perceived to likely be losing, the more likely such a surge would occur.

    A major surge in energy prices. The market is generally favorable to an increase in oil prices through September.

    The Supreme Court decides in a way to let Trump go on trial and be convicted by Nov. It doesn’t seem likely, but it is in the hands of 3 people (Roberts, Barrett, Kavanaugh) and its the Supreme Court so you never know.

    By the way, I kind of agree / disagree with Josh Barro on the economy. I agree a dramatic crash is unlikely; but a steady yet noticeable deterioration in both the labor market and inflation is quite plausible (maybe even the modal outcome).

  • walt moffett Link

    An unlikely event, Either or both candidates start talking like Dutch Uncles about the state of things. Folks like to keep their delusions all ok and will get better.

  • steve Link

    How would we know if Israel defeated Hamas? Israel didnt even know they were going to be attacked and now they know the names of everyone in Hamas and can kill them? I suspect you mean Israel declares victory.


  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    Another “event”; “disorderly protests” at the DNC which is scheduled in Chicago in August. It’s sort of funny how this year has faint echos to the last time the DNC was held in Chicago, like there’s a Robert Kennedy running a long shot bid for President.

    You could even point to a proximate cause for such protests; the Israelis launch the long discussed Rafah offensive.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    If I were Israeli I sure wouldn’t take my foot off of their necks now.
    As to civilian casualties, the Mafia and the Nazis had families too. If they choose to hide behind their own families…..

  • steve Link

    CO- Anything is possible but this seems a lot different than the 60s. The actual number of people involved in the protests is much smaller. It polls as a minor issue among students. The “violence” mostly consists of not cooperating when being arrested.

    In the 60s people were protesting because they didnt want to go to personally go to war (or their boyfriend, son, spouse). We lost nearly 60,000 soldiers there so there was a real fear of dying or coming back crippled. It really wasn’t clear why we were fighting there which made it worse. Without that direct involvement I find it unlikely much happens. There will definitely be protests but unless the police go overboard I just dont see large scale riots. Guess I could see a small group of people of Palestinian heritage trying to stir things up.


  • Andy Link

    All those seem like low-probability events to me, but they are certainly on the table.

    For each of the candidates, I’d suspect that it’s much more likely that the strain of the campaigns could cause a health event or series of events that could cause a decisive swing in the election.

    Right now though, it’s looking a lot like 2016 to me except that Trump looks a lot more likely to win. The level of denial among many Democrats should not surprise me, but it does. Not that Democrats have many good options other than running against Trump and hoping for the best. It’s really becoming too late to do much else.

  • PD Shaw Link

    International events are the least predictable, but mostly would have low salience with voters. Domestically, I can see a Supreme Court justice death in the early Fall motivating turnout in ways that might help Biden.

  • Yes, that’s a good point, PD.

    With respect to steve’s observation:

    The actual number of people involved in the protests is much smaller.

    I wonder how we’d go about quantifying that one way or another? I agree with him that it was more about fear of the draft than it was about opposition to the war per se. I was a reasonably well-informed adult then, living half a block from a major college campus, and that was my impression at the time.

    Andy, I think any “denial” among Democrats is largely because they’re in a bubble. It’s the Pauline Kael phenomenon: “Nobody I know voted for him”.

  • steve Link
  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    My retort.

    The existing protests were damaging enough to drive the administrations policy.

  • I question the LA Times’s approach. I don’t believe that anythng like 50% of undergrads were involved. My alma mater had one of the most-publicized demonstrations. Fewer than 10% of the student body were involved.

  • Andy Link

    “Andy, I think any “denial” among Democrats is largely because they’re in a bubble. It’s the Pauline Kael phenomenon: “Nobody I know voted for him”.”

    There is some of that for sure, but I think a lot of is they don’t have any good options. Everyone knows Biden is unpopular, even most Democrats when polled wish there was someone else running, but there’s no one else to take his place, and there’s no mechanism to replace him. What else is there to do but “dance with the one that brought you” and make the best of it?

    BTW, I think many on the GoP side will be doing the same thing in rationalizing their votes and support for Trump. Many already have.

  • Andy Link

    “The existing protests were damaging enough to drive the administrations policy.”

    I think there is something to this.

    When Biden came into office, to mend fences, he brought many Bernie and Warren people on board. You may remember that there was an actual staffer protest over Gaza in the White House a few months back.

    I think Biden’s campaign is probably too captured by the idea of the importance of the progressive youth demographic in this election. It’s the only way I can explain the continued pandering on student loan forgiveness and the Gaza protests—two things that are unpopular with the general public.

  • Drew Link

    If i might dip my toe in the water.

    The notion that any event might be blamed on Trump and having effect i find laughable. He’s been blamed for everything under the sun. Joe Biden lies through his teeth about his incompetence every day – it’s all Trumps fault. The die is cast. .

    Steves comments: snicker

    Others: interesting

    Best: I think PD hit the nail on the head. I’ve been asking myself the same question you posed, Dave. So many people’s opinions are set. Continuing economic decline is numero uno. The consumer is tapped. What would be a rallying event? Supreme Court.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    If President of the United States were a GOOD job there wouldn’t be a shortage of qualified people competing for the position.
    It’s a complete mess and a damn shame.

  • When Biden came into office, to mend fences, he brought many Bernie and Warren people on board.

    As I predicted at the time, his focus was on mending fences within the Democratic Party.

  • steve Link

    Dave- The numbers are based upon the research of a history professor who studies protests. It’s hard to know the exact number of students but a lot of numbers are easy to verify. 30 ROTC buildings were bombed and 95 acts of arson just in one month. Over 500 schools were shut down. Dozens of university buildings were occupied for an extended period. Protests at many schools were in the thousands. Those numbers are all easy to verify.

    I suspect he reaches 4 million by including all protests and not just those about Vietnam. * There were large civil rights protests and other issues. Also, the protests lasted about 6 years. At any rate, just with the numbers that are easy to verify the numbers were massively larger. Police responses have also been much earlier.


    * 2 uncles were professors at Purdue. The anti-war protests were pretty tame, maybe reaching 400 students. However, I believe it was 1969 when Purdue basically doubled tuition for in-state students after a big cut in state support. That resulted in thousands of students protesting. The article at the link claims 6,000, which might be hard to verify but they did have a 5 day live-in which is easy to confirm. While that was mostly about the tuition and board hike since they were there they included the war and civil rights. (It was the year after the black cheerleaders I believe.)

    So I think people’s memories are awfully selective. I think Drew is a Purdue alumnus and has conveniently forgotten the large and extended protests at his school.


Leave a Comment