2024 is looking to be a repeat of 2020 in a major way – a Donald Trump and Joe Biden showdown for the President of the United States. Biden holds the advantage as the incumbent for the Democratic party, but poll numbers have many election analysts considering the reality of Trump winning the popular vote for the very first time.

A Newsweek Investigation

A recent investigation done by Newsweek looked at the possibility of Trump winning the popular vote in 2024. The findings were interesting, pointing to multiple different ways that Trump could possibly earn enough votes to overtake Biden for the popular vote when he lost by more than seven points in 2020.

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Understanding this possibility requires a bit of history, and understanding of United States politics, though. Many Americans are unfamiliar with the way the government works, and it’s led to some misunderstandings about the popular vote and the presidency in America.

America is a Democratic Republic

While the United States does operate under a democratic structure – a government that is voted in by the people – there is an additional component that many Americans do not understand. America is not just a democracy, but it is also a representative republic.

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A representative republic sees its citizens vote for representatives who in the American system, are responsible for choosing the next president. This system is what has led to the electoral college system in America, with Americans voting for president, and then electors voting for the person who wins the most popular votes.

The Electoral College Majority

In America, the president is chosen by the candidate who wins the majority in the electoral college. The college consists of 538 electors, and a majority of 270 votes is required for any one candidate to secure the White House. Each state in America has a different number of electors, based on the population of the state.

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This unique system has led to some confusion in average Americans, for one major reason. The electoral college system is structured in such a way that, should the right circumstances happen, it would be possible for a president to lose the popular vote – or the majority confidence of Americans – but still win the presidency.

The Importance of the Popular Vote

The concept of a popular vote is particularly important in countries like America, where politics is hotly divided on major issues. Winning the popular vote is a signal to the new president that they have the support of the American people to begin working on the policies that they campaigned on.

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Winning the popular vote can also provide ammunition for the president when dealing with a hotly divided Congress. A president who won the popular vote would be able to use that information as leverage to implement policies, even if they aren’t necessarily popular with the elected representatives who work in the other houses of the government.

Trump’s Popular Vote Could Be Deeply Concerning

This very fact could make it a major issue if Trump were to win the popular vote, and the White House beyond that. Trump has, from the beginning of his third campaign, made very clear that he has big ideas for ways that he could change the government if he becomes president again, and most of those changes are deeply concerning.

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His policies stem from a campaign that has been pushed called Project 2025, which is an authoritarian blueprint for changing the government from the inside out. It would, from day one, require Trump to instate martial law and a state of emergency to make changes, and advocates for firing thousands of government employees in order to weed out “dissenters” and install Trump loyalists in their place.

Extreme Policies Potentially Pushed Through

It would also allow Trump to push other policies through Congress that would require more participation than simple executive order. Winning the popular vote would mean that Trump could argue that the majority of Americans want him to instate his extreme policies, even if it’s only by a slim majority.

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While the United States government is structured in such a way that prevents many authoritarian actions, were Trump to have a Republican House and Senate the way that he did in the early days of his 2016 presidency, he would be able to push through quite a few extreme policy changes that he could then formally sign into law.

Trump Leading Against Biden

This scenario might sound alarmist, but polls are revealing that it might not be as far off as many Democrats and moderates want to believe. Recent polling data from NBC news found that the former president was leading in confidence against Joe Biden 47% to 42%.

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These numbers, while not big, are enough for Newsweek analysts to speculate on the possibility of Trump winning the popular vote. Trump lost the popular vote in both 2016 against Hillary Clinton and in 2020 against Joe Biden, but changing times and opinions mean that he may have a real shot of winning the majority of Americans votes in 2024.

A Significant Win For Republicans

Winning the popular vote would be significant for the Republican Party, and not simply because the candidate is Trump. Republicans haven’t won the popular vote in a general election since 2004, when George W. Bush ran for reelection against Democratic hopeful John Kerry.

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Unfortunately for Trump, snagging the popular vote would require a significant shift in messaging. In 2024, one of the largest voter blocs will be Gen Z, a group of voters that are historically liberal. Appealing to the majority of Americans would require leaning into their messaging, which would go against everything that Trump has sold of himself thus far in his campaign.

Likely a Trump Pipe Dream

The former president has a strong base of loyal supporters, this is true. There are still many Trump loyalists who believe the former president’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen from him, and with his MAGA base, it’s entirely possible that he could win 30-35% of the popular vote.

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore

Beyond that, though, Trump would be relying on undecided voters and Republican moderates to vote for him in historically unpredictable swing states. This would be merely to win the electoral college, not even the popular vote. The Newsweek poll concluded that while, yes, it is a possibility that Trump could win the popular vote in 2024, ultimately, given the current political and generational climate, the idea is likely a pipe dream for the Republican hopeful.