THOUGH he is busy with rallies and fundraising galas, the latest of which takes place in Florida tonight, it is heartening to see that Donald Trump can still make time for old friends such as Nigel Farage.

The ex-UKIP leader, once dubbed the “king of Europe” by Mr Trump, sat down with the former President on Monday to put the world to rights, with the results set to air on GB News last night.

The wide-ranging chat took in subjects including Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, who was accused of being “disrespectful to the Queen”, and, of course, the hot topic of whether Mr Trump will be running again in 2024.

Mr Trump has been engaged in that particular dance of the seven veils since the moment he lost in 2020. Last week, his successor began the same routine. Asked if President Biden would be running again, his press secretary, Jen Psaki, said: “Yes, that is his intention.” Note the “i” word.

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So if all comes to pass, the 2024 race will be a straight rerun of 2020. While that prospect might delight Mr Farage and fellow Trump supporters, it leaves many others stone cold and queasy.

You can understand the reason for their dismay, given how things turned out last time. After another bitterly divisive race came the shocking aftermath with Mr Trump falsely claiming the election had been stolen from him. On January 6 a mob of his supporters invaded the Capitol. People died. It is only now, with all the footage available, that it is becoming clear how close the US came to further disaster that day. It is unthinkable that the same scenario could play out again, but unthinkable, like unprecedented, is the territory on which so much of politics now takes place, in the US as elsewhere.

It was not meant to be like this according to the liberal narrative. Mr Trump's victory was supposed to have been an aberration, a misguided lurch into populism, following which America came to its senses, with Covid nudging it along. See what happens when you elect an extremist as President?

In this scenario, Mr Biden was the reset President, the one who made America decent again, and this generation of politicians the ones who had peered into the abyss and pulled the country back.

Increasingly, however, it is Mr Biden who is looking at odds with history, as if he, not Mr Trump, was the blip. Instead of the reset President, some fear Mr Biden is the pause before the real storm of a second Trump term.

In a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, 44% of Americans approved of the job Mr Biden was doing, with 49% disapproving. So much for healing a divided America.

Other polls show him losing support among younger voters, the ones he needs to bring back on side if next year’s midterms are not to be the disaster for Democrats that so many are predicting.

In the country as a whole the momentum is with the conservative right. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the (latest) battle over abortion rights.

This week the Supreme Court began considering Mississippi’s bid to ban all abortions after 15 weeks, a move that would overturn the landmark Roe v Wade ruling that gave women the absolute right to an abortion within three months, and limited rights thereafter. A ruling is expected in mid 2022. On Tuesday, Mike Spence, former vice-president to Mr Trump and thought to be a likely challenger in 2024, said he had "absolute confidence that the tide has turned for the pro-life movement".

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The right is in the ascendant in other ways. While liberal America and the rest of the world were busy being appalled by Mr Trump’s antics, the Republicans were hard at work redrawing electoral maps to give the party an advantage in key battlegrounds. The effects of this will not only be seen in the midterms, but for years after. The quiet, faceless, party apparatchik could play more of a role in shaping America, and the world, than any President. That ought to trouble democrats of every stripe.

Keeping Democrats up at night is the thought that what ails the party cannot be easily fixed, assuming it is fixable at all. Bluntly, Mr Biden is not getting any younger, and his Vice-President is not looking any more competent and worthy of taking over than the last time anyone checked.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll taken in mid-November asked respondents to agree or disagree with the statement that the President was “in good health”. Half disagreed. The gap between the two positions had widened considerably in a year.

In a poll for The Herald’s sister paper USA Today/Suffolk, Kamala Harris’s approval ratings were worse than her boss’s (27.8% compared to his 37.8%).

Overall, the same poll found 64% did not want Joe Biden to run for the presidency again, and 58% did not want Mr Trump to run. If clear majorities of Americans are against the idea, why is the 2024 race shaping up to be a rerun of 2020?

Yet it is far too early for any contender to be throwing their hat in the ring. On both sides there are those watching, waiting, putting polls out into the field. Donald Trump likes to boast that a stream of hopefuls visits him in Mar-a-Lago, all wanting to be his Vice President in 2024. They are just as likely to be after his old job, and any donors that want to swing their way.

As for Biden, what else was his press secretary to do than say it was his intention to run again? In Harris’s case, it is better to find out now rather than later if she has the right stuff.

The optimist will look at American politics today and see the system working as it should, with approval ratings going up and down as they always do at certain points.

Similarly, Mr Trump will always be Mr Trump, convinced he was robbed last time, believing that most Americans want him back in the White House. With each day that passes he grows more terrified at the thought he has become irrelevant. Yesterday's man, or worst of all in his book, a loser.

Hot air and lots of it, spouting from both sides. Yet as long as the idea persists that it is Trump v Biden again in 2024, the more likely it is that the real contenders will stay in the shadows for longer, away from the scrutiny they deserve. Someone better than Mr Biden or Mr Trump could be in America’s future – or someone worse.