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The US election rematch that hardly anyone wants

So that’s it. The battle lines have been drawn. It’s Trump Vs Biden – the seemingly inevitable rematch that hardly anyone in the United States wants to see.

But they are going to see it anyway.

Super Tuesday gave us the candidates super early. It’s not quite a week into the third month of the year, but already its clear who Americans will be deciding between in the first week of the eleventh month.

It really is going to be a long campaign.

The contest now is for Nikki Haley voters, that curious subset of the US population who stuck with Ms Haley through the primary process. At least as far as Super Tuesday.

She defined a group – somewhere between one in five and one in three of the Republican and Republican leaning electorate – who don’t like Mr Biden and don’t like Trump.

They are the prize in the contest that has now begun between the two candidates.

Make no mistake – the Haley voters will play a crucial role in deciding who becomes President on the night of 5 November.

The arithmetic in this Presidential election is incredibly tight.

It boils down to a dozen battleground states where the gap between the candidates is 2% or less – margin of error stuff when it comes to polling.

So those Haley voters count. When she pulled out of the race yesterday – without endorsing Donald Trump – those votes came into play.

Polling suggests that about half of them will stick with the Republican party nominee unless something extraordinary happens.

About 37% say they will vote for Joe Biden, and about 12% to 13% are undecided, or indifferent, or will just sit it out.

Depending on where those voters are, they could be the difference between winning and losing the presidency.

Nikki Haley voters will play a crucial role in deciding who becomes President on the night of 5 November

So both men will go after these voters. For Mr Trump that means modifying his tone and language to try and win back at least some of the “disloyal” Republican voters, who might be more inclined to sit on the sidelines rather than vote for either Mr Trump or Mr Biden.

Ditto for the sitting President, who starts with the advantage that his more measured language is in line with the expectations of these voters. But he has to persuade them to vote for a Democrat.

So that is the campaign. Mr Trump and Mr Biden – the two candidates that 80% of Americans don’t want to see as the candidates – will have to compete in the pool of voters that Nikki Haley defined for them.

The really interesting part of the campaign are those fall into the category of “events, dear boy”.

For Donald Trump, that is obviously the four criminal court cases he faces, in which he has been arraigned on a total of 91 charges, which carry a cumulative jail term in excess of 700 years.

Which of course he won’t serve or be sentences to – most analysts believe home confinement will be the most a former president would face – for national security reasons and for dignity of the office reasons.

Biden to give high-stakes address as Trump rematch looms

But the legal peril could still throw the former president a curve ball or 91 and could tie him up in courtrooms when he would rather be out campaigning.

Although the opinion polls suggest that two-thirds of Republican voters would not have a problem with voting for Mr Trump even if he is convicted of a crime, persuading those Haley voters may be a lot harder.

For Joe Biden, there are two big challenges – the economy and Gaza.

The economy should be a strong hand for Biden to play. On paper the numbers are excellent, but in the real world, at supermarket checkouts, the effects of inflation have conspired against him to such an extent that a majority of voters feel thigs were better economically under Trump.

Not really the case, but perception is more important than dry statistics.

The issues voters say are most important to them – the economy and immigration – are hardly discussed in any depth

Perhaps more worrying in the short term are the problems he faces over Gaza, where voters in key demographics are deserting Biden’s winning coalition from 2020. Most notably Black voters.

Last week, 13% of voters in Michigan – an absolutely critical state in the upcoming election – voted ‘Uncommitted’ in the Democratic Primary.

People pointed to the fact that Michigan has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the country.

But on Super Tuesday North Carolina returned a similar outcome – 13% voting ‘uncommitted’, while in Minnesota the number was 19% – almost one in five of the voters in the Democratic primary registering a protest vote against the president’s Gaza policy.

The combination of factors now swirling around – outside the control of the candidates – puts the character of both men under the microscope in an extraordinary way.

The issues voters say are most important to them – the economy and immigration – are hardly discussed in any depth. It’s all about emotion, feeling, nostalgia, hope.

In an election of fine margins, this just makes the danger of an accidental outcome much, much higher.

People may vote for one thing, only to get something radically different.

This election contest that the voters don’t want – but are stuck with – is going to be fascinating to watch.

Predictable so far, utterly unpredictable from now on.

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