2023: the year of political never-woulds

From the darkest of dark horses to the vainest of vanity projects, this has been a banner year for candidates who were over before they started

Ron DeSantis, Dean Phillips, Robert F Kennedy Jr and Mike Pence
This past year has proven to be fertile ground for aspirants from across the ideological spectrum
(Image credit: Illustrated / Getty Images)

In a sense, 2023 never stood a chance.

While the past 12 months have been replete with wins, losses, and notable entanglements, when it comes to the gladiatorial arena that is American politics in the 21st century, 2023 will most likely go down as a mere appetizer to next year's main electoral course. In part that's to be expected; interstitial years between general elections are always a preparatory period when viewed through the lens of national politics. At the same time, the combination of former President Donald Trump's seemingly insurmountable lead over a slowly dwindling Republican primary field coupled with incumbent President Joe Biden's virtually guaranteed spot as presumptive Democratic nominee has cast an unmistakable pall of deja vu across next year's political landscape — even as the stakes of their election could be, as one headline in The Hill put it, "the end of democracy as we know it."

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