📷 Key players Meteor shower up next 📷 Leaders at the dais 20 years till the next one
Joe Biden

Trump and Biden are 'darn near even' in the 2024 election. Here's where the race could go.

WASHINGTON – The Republican candidate for president is on trial for hush money payments and alleged election interference, and he could be facing a prison sentence.

He's been assessed more than $500,000 in damages in lawsuits for bank fraud, defamation and sexual abuse.

He also faces sweeping opposition from former aides who served in his White House, and he'll move into more trials over allegations he mishandled classified information and tried to steal the 2020 election from President Joe Biden.

Despite problems that would have destroyed other candidates, presumptive 2024 GOP White House nominee Donald Trump is basically tied with Biden little more than six months before Election Day. It's prompted questions from political observers about whether the former president can maintain ground among moderate voters, or whether Biden will cut into his support as they both seek a second term.

"The race is tied? The race is tied? Nothing makes sense anymore," Colin Jost, the "Saturday Night Live" star, joked over the weekend while emceeing the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.

Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

Why are Trump and Biden 'darn near even?'

Pollsters and political analysts offer many reasons the race between Trump and Biden is so close, starting with voters having more problems with Biden and the economy than with Trump.

A Wall Street Journal poll released earlier this month found that more voters think Trump is better suited to handle inflation and rising costs than the current president.

Liz Mair, an anti-Trump Republican political consultant, said her review of recent polling also indicates independent voters are more concerned about Biden's stewardship of the economy than Trump's criminal charges.

"Independents are really ticked about the economy, and Biden is not doing anything to allay their concerns," Mair said.

But pollsters and other experts explained that the dynamic isn't about voters ignoring Trump's criminal trials in favor of the economy. Instead, Trump has been effective in portraying his indictments as politically motivated, though that could change if he's convicted in the ongoing hush money trial in New York.

Trump has been attacking the justice system since his first indictment in March 2023, they said, and polls indicate that Trump has persuaded enough people to keep him competitive with Biden.

"One candidate's weaknesses seems to offset the other candidate's weaknesses," said Tim Malloy, a polling analyst at Quinnipiac University. "When you weigh the plusses and minuses the candidates end up darn near even."

The race is also close because, despite the many changes in party politics wrought by Trump's tenure, the country remains at near-parity between Republicans and Democrats, an approximate 50-50 split that has been in evidence for decades.

President Joe Biden speaks at the North American Building Trades Unions 2024 Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, on April 24, 2024.

Pretty much a tie at this point

Trump is still afloat politically as he faces off against Biden − and one could argue he's actually in the lead at this point.

A Real Clear Politics average of recent polls gave Trump a 1% lead over Biden, 46%-45%, at the national level.

Experts still emphasize that presidents are elected state-by-state: Trump lost the national popular vote in both of his previous presidential races, yet prevailed in the Electoral College over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Nevertheless, a CNN poll released Sunday gave Trump his biggest lead yet, six percentage points at 49%-43%.

When third party candidates like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., are added to the mix, Trump's lead grows to 9%, according to CNN. Other surveys, meanwhile, show Kennedy taking more votes from Trump than Biden, the reason that Trump has started attacking RFK Jr. on a daily basis.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. attends a Cesar Chavez Day event at Union Station on March 30, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

Dissatisfaction with both candidates

All told, the 2024 presidential race right now is a push and may stay that way through the Nov. 5 election. Any number of future developments could decide the contest, given what Malloy described as "broad dissatisfaction with both candidates."

Poll after poll has shown that Americans are unenthusiastic about a 2020 rematch between Trump and Biden.

While Trump is weighed down by his criminal cases and escalating rhetoric, such as threats that he'd be a dictator "on day one" of a second term, that hasn't necessarily cleared the way for Biden, Malloy explained.

"Biden has wallowed in low numbers despite an improving economy." He also said the issue of age issue is working more against the 81-year-old Biden than the 77-year-old Trump, with voters appearing more concerned about Biden's health than that of the former president.

Where does the 2024 election go from here?

Will Trump or Biden manage to pull away with the election before November? Experts say there are a few key factors the presumptive nominees could lean into in the coming months as undecided voters consider the candidates.

Among the options, analysts said: Nostalgia. CNN reported that "55% of all Americans now say they see Trump’s presidency as a success, while 44% see it as a failure."

The former president's opponents, some of whom have formed organizations like Republican Voters Against Trump, said too many have forgotten the chaos and scandals of his White House term.

Biden and his supporters need to drive up Trump's unfavorable ratings by steadily reminding voters of the "insanity" of those years, said Tony Franquiz, a spokesman for the group Republican Voters Against Trump.

"There's a frustration that people feel toward Biden," he said, "but there's plenty of time to work on reminding voters of their much greater frustration toward Trump."

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence arrive in the Rose Garden to speak on COVID-19 testing at the White House in Washington on Sept. 28, 2020.

Another key future development: A jury's decision in Trump's trials.

A Quinnipiac Poll released last week – which had the race dead even at 46%-46% – found that "if the former president is convicted in this case, 5 percent of Trump voters say they would be less likely to vote for him."

A 5% shift could be decisive, especially in the battleground states that will decide the election, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona and possibly North Carolina.

Political scientist Lara Brown, author of "Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants," said polls also show an "enthusiasm gap," meaning Trump voters are more excited about their candidate than Biden backers are about their guy.

But that also means there is room for Biden's support to grow.

"Trump seems to be consistently polling at (or near what is likely) his ceiling, whereas Biden seems to be polling at (or near what is likely) his floor for support," Brown said.

Either way, there's a good chance the race will stay close because of what pollster Frank Luntz described as voter problems with both candidates.

"No one knows who's going to win at this point," Luntz said. "Each candidate has serious flaws."

Featured Weekly Ad