Most of us may be eagerly anticipating the arrival of Memorial Day weekend, and with it, the unofficial start of summer – but the two presidential candidates and their staffs probably aren’t quite so enthusiastic.

It may seem like a quiet period before the campaign really heats up after Labor Day weekend, but that’s not quite the case this time around. For starters, while it may not seem like it, both parties had presumptive nominees far earlier than usual – especially at the same time. Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee in early March, while President Biden never faced any serious competition for re-nomination.

On both sides of the aisle, that’s much earlier than in prior years: In 2016, Trump became the presumptive nominee in early May, while in 2020 Biden had it sewn up by early April. Going forward, it will be interesting to see if this is a trend or an aberration. It’s easy to make a case for either: neither of them will be running again, so both parties may have wide-open fields. Then again, both parties will have seen the advantages of having short primary seasons, so they might be inclined to recreate these circumstances. If this trend does continue, we ought to seriously consider completely restructuring our national primaries, so more of the country gets the chance to have a say in choosing the nominee.

Given the abbreviated primaries – as well as Trump’s ongoing trials – this summer might not be as quiet politically as it has been historically. Both men seem ready to hit the ground running, already switching to general election mode even before we entered May. In political campaigns, the challenge for both parties is always to control the narrative, waging the battle around issues that are favorable to them while ignoring or downplaying issues unfavorable to them. This year, though, there are going to be a number of factors completely outside of their control.

At the moment, one of the primary issues emerging is the war between Israel and Hamas. This is a point of weakness for President Biden in a number of different ways, but primarily because it has the potential to pit various factions in his coalition against one another. Arab Americans, Jewish Americans and young people all tend to vote more Democratic as groups than the rest of the population as a whole, and they’re also the groups that are most incensed one way or another by the war in Gaza.

Unfortunately for Biden and Democrats, it doesn’t always fall neatly on clear lines even in one group, let alone between them. Regardless of what course of action Biden takes in regards to the conflict, it’s going to alienate some of his supporters somehow – the question is just who and how much. That explains why, even as the administration keeps supporting Israel, it’s also pushing for a cease-fire and trying to keep the conflict from spreading elsewhere: it’s the best outcome politically, not simply on a humanitarian basis.


If it is unsuccessful in those efforts, it will be interesting to see whether current protests dissipate once students leave college campuses or they continue to intensify elsewhere. If it’s the latter, it’s easy to see the discontent coming to a head at the Democrats’ national convention in August in Chicago. While it’s hard to imagine discontent rivaling the scale of the 1968 Democratic convention in the same city, anything but a totally unified front could hurt Biden’s chances.

Apart from domestic unrest, the administration has to continue to ensure that America doesn’t become more directly involved in the conflict. The recent exchange of military strikes between Iran and Israel was disconcerting, but another round could end up being completely disastrous. Even if the two foes don’t face off against each other directly, further strikes against American assets could draw us into more direct military action.

Apart from the Gaza conflict, Trump’s trials, continued global instability, the strange state of the economy, and even the hurricane season could all impact the election in unpredictable ways. Trump and Biden alike are no doubt hoping for a nice, quiet, summer (albeit in different ways), allowing them to craft a narrative for the fall on their own terms, but history has shown us that’s unlikely. While they might wish otherwise, campaigns are shaped by events, not the other way around – and the winner is the one who best reacts to them.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
Twitter: @jimfossel

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