A year or two ago, Donald Trump's political rivals were celebrating his demise and even looking forward to the day when the former president would be behind bars. With several legal cases still pending against him, Trump chose to ignore and alarm his critics as he secured the New Hampshire nomination in late January.
The 77-year-old, who is no stranger to controversy and still stands accused of election interference and mishandling classified documents, dealt a series blow to his main rival Nikki Haley's presidential aspirations with a New Hampshire win of 12 delegates against Haley’s 9.
With the odds against him, and several undeniably strong reasons for voters to be cautious about lending him their support, Trump has now been successful in both the New Hampshire and Iowa Republican nomination.
Will the rest of his time on the campaign trail be a formality, and if nominated, what are his chances of securing victory over Joe Biden?
Trump defies the odds yet again: is the Republican party now his?
As a controversial candidate, Trump was bound to attract rivals from within his own party. However, the first sign that their attempts would not be successful came in the form of Ron DeSantis's resignation in late January. Since then, the field has narrowed significantly, leaving only Nikki Haley as a serious contender - and even that may be debatable.
Despite Haileys impressive résumé, which includes Governor of South Carolina, and United States representative at the United Nations, voters have been unpersuaded that she's a better option than Donald Trump. This is especially true of lower income Republican supporters and those without college education.
● In a relatively educated and affluent state like New Hampshire, Haley should have brought about a close call at the polls, but the pro- Trump cohort was big enough and active enough at the polls to secure him a win.
● Trump’s enduring popularity with working class conservatives has led many analysts to predict that the former president will have an easy time winning the nomination in poorer states across America south and Midwest.
For Haley, the question has become: is it worth pursuing a campaign at all or conceding defeat like DeSantis? A potentially embarrassing defeat in the South Carolina primary coming up at the end of February could see Haley lose to Trump in the state where she once governed.
Despite the political risk involved, Haley has not indicated that she will drop out of the race anytime soon. Political analysts and bookmakers continue to upgrade the odds in Trump's favor, with Haley looking increasingly unlikely to feature in the final race.
Attention shifts from Trump vs Haley to Trump vs Biden
As the Republican nomination looks increasingly like a victory for Trump, analysts and voters alike will be shifting their attention away from Haley to focus on the big question impacting both US and global politics this year: can Trump defeat Joe Biden?
If recent events and opinion polls are to be believed, the outspoken former president may stand a good chance of reclaiming the White House.
Trump currently enjoys 2024 presidential election odds of +575 against Biden’s more favorable -1100. These numbers may appear to favor Biden at first glance, but in reality they imply that Trump has a 54.55% of victory. The latest numbers indicate that Biden may have a hard time being reelected in a hypothetical election held immediately.
Naturally, a lot can change between now and November with two major risk factors potentially coming into play: Biden's age and recent public appearance and Trump's list of criminal charges.
Joe Biden (82) is not a young man by any definition of the word.
● The current president has raised eyebrows with some of his recent public statements in which he appeared confused. While his supporters claim that these news clips have been taken out of context, there are valid concerns about his ability to successfully complete a second term in office.
● Americans who are old enough to remember the awkward moments associated with Ronald Reagan's second term may be concerned that Biden will not be in the kind of form that's needed to guide the world's biggest economy through a challenging period of geopolitical instability.
While Biden's age is concerning, Donald Trump is not a young man himself - and his legal woes are far from over.
● At 77, the former president has painted himself as the younger, stronger, and more mentally astute option - a claim that his supporters have been quick to reinforce. However, should he be successful in the election, he will reach Joe Biden's current age while still in office, and only time will tell what the effects of aging may be on a leader who was never known for his measured approach to diplomacy.
● In addition, the number of potential criminal charges against Trump, which include election interference (currently postponed) and improper handling of classified documents, may still come back to haunt him in court. How exactly Trump would go about pardoning himself if elected, and the potential damage that this could do to the American justice system is yet to be seen.
Final Thoughts: Trump leads the polls but final election results are still hard to predict
Donald Trump appears to be in a strong position to clinch the Republican nomination for this year's presidential election, with Nikki Haley's attempt to counteract his popularity largely failing.
In terms of Trump's chances against Joe Biden, the age of both candidates in combination with Biden's perceived frailty and Trump's legal woes may sway the vote in either direction come November.