Are America’s 45th and 46th presidents politically invulnerable? That’s a conclusion you might come to from the response to the indictment of Donald Trump on June 8 and the guilty plea by Joe Biden’s son Hunter announced on June 20.

If the Trump indictment has had any perceptible effect on his chances to win his third consecutive Republican presidential nomination, it isn’t apparent in the polls. Any changes in the percentages in Republican primaries have been within the margin of error, and in the three general election polls taken since June 8, his lead over Biden averages 44% to 40%.

There’s been no time for pollsters to gauge voters’ response to the Biden indictment. But polls show Biden trailing in the popular vote against Trump — whom, remember, he walloped in the popular vote in 2020 by 51% to 47%.

Extrapolating from those numbers, assuming a uniform swing in each state and accounting for the changes in electoral vote numbers from the 2020 census, that looks like

Trump winning 328 electoral votes and Biden only 210 — the lowest number for a Democrat since 1988, when Ronald Reagan was president.

Still, there is no perceptible move among Democrats for any alternative to Biden. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., polling at 16%, provides an alternative for Democrats seriously discontent with Biden or attracted to Kennedy’s unusual positions on vaccines and similar issues. But does anyone see him pulling off a near-win as Eugene McCarthy did against incumbent President Lyndon Johnson in 1968? And if so, who else would enter the race, as Kennedy’s father did back then?

In any case, one can scan political Twitter and find little or no evidence of any other Democratic presidential candidacy aborning. Democratic voters, it appears, have serious doubts about Biden’s age, his apparently decreasing competency and his viability as a general election candidate. But they like him personally and seem to focus on his genuinely likable traits.

They are happy to dismiss the Hunter Biden indictment as irrelevant, and are apparently untroubled, to the extent they give it any thought, by his $50,000-a-month contract (that’s $600,000 a year) with the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma when his father was vice president. Most old-line media and cable news outlets are uninterested in exploring these stories as well.

Nor have any apologies been issued, so far as I am aware, from the 51 signers of the October 2020 letter asserting that the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian intelligence operation.” Although Mark Zuckerberg has confessed error in Facebook’s suppression of accurate COVID information, he seems not to have regretted Facebook’s effective suppression of the laptop story. Some credit goes to The New York Times and The Washington Post for admitting the laptop story was accurate — in March 2022, 17 months after the story ran and 16 months after the election.

Trump supporters can argue that Hunter Biden benefited from a double standard. Despite liberal protestations, it’s not clear that most defendants who lie on gun forms get off with no felony charge. And there’s obviously a contrast between Trump’s treatment and the Obama administration’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails. The prosecution decision was made by the U.S. attorney in Delaware — a Trump appointee, but one who first was temporarily appointed by Obama and who was recommended to Trump by the state’s two Democratic senators.

But after Bret Baier’s appropriately tough interview on Fox News, it’s impossible to argue that Trump didn’t violate the law, after repeated opportunities to obey, and for no particularly good reason. There’s an argument that Biden should have stopped this prosecution on process grounds, that the unprecedented prosecution of an opposition candidate and former president would poison the political process. But it’s harder to argue that Trump has any moral entitlement to a free pass.

American politics seems to be stuck in a doom loop.

One explanation for Democratic voters’ stubborn and arguably irrational allegiance to Joe Biden is that they’re reacting to Republican voters’ stubborn and arguably irrational allegiance to Donald Trump. One explanation for Republican voters’ stubborn and arguably irrational allegiance to Donald Trump is that they’re reacting to the Democrats’ and most of the press’s grossly unfair treatment of him, from the Russia collusion hoax to the “Democracy Dies In Darkness” suppression of the Biden laptop story.

One solution would be a constitutional amendment setting an age limit on presidents. A more feasible solution is for one or both parties’ voters to start assessing candidates by their capacity to govern and achieve positive policy results. Republicans at least have alternatives running who can make that case against Trump.
Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

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