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The Biden-Trump Rerun: A Nation Craving Change Gets More of the Same

The promise of change has been a powerful force in presidential campaigns for decades, a reliable appeal to a fundamental yearning in the American electorate. It was central to the candidacies of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump.

“Change vs. more of the same” read a hand-scrawled placard posted on a wall in the campaign war room for Bill Clinton when he captured the White House in 1992.

Yet this year, Americans, who by nearly every measure are hungering for a new direction, are confronted with the choice between a continuation or a restoration.

The contest between President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump is the rare election without a major party candidate who can be presented as a fresh face and a new tomorrow. Neither man is poised to tap into all of the enthusiasm and excitement that comes with unknown possibilities. Instead, Americans are getting a rerun, a race between a president and a former president, both older than 90 percent of Americans — Mr. Biden is 81 and Mr. Trump is 77 — and viewed unfavorably by a majority of them.

Whoever better navigates a contest that is, in so many ways, a mismatch with the moment could well prove to have the upper hand over the next eight months.

“There are only two choices: stay the course or time for a change,” said Paul Begala, a senior strategist for Mr. Clinton’s presidential campaigns, describing the dominant dynamic in American politics. “We want change,” Mr. Begala said of the nation. “We are revolutionary. We are built for change.”

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