Below is a list of factors impacting the 2024 election.
Factor One: A rightward tilt in the electoral map
Three states that Obama won twice, Iowa Ohio, and Florida are now solid red.
The Democrats have basically pulled out of Iowa. Both Biden and Harris are unpopular in the state. The Democrats went from owning 3 of 4 of the Congressional seats in 2018 to having 0 of 4 in 2022, and are now having trouble finding candidates. The governorship and both Senate seats are now owned by Republicans. Their performance in the 2022 governor’s race was especially bad.
Ohio is usually close but has gone from extremely close in 2000 and 2002 to more comfortably Republican in recent years. A Trump-backed Senate candidate won an open seat in 2022. A popular Democratic Senator is up for re-election in 2024 in a tough battleground that leans Republican
Florida the deciding state in 2000 is now very Red as evidence by the victory of DeSantis, Rubio and House Republicans in 2022. Democrats need to concentrate on the House in Florida to become relevant.
Factor Two: A large number of potential swing states
There were an incredible number of close statewide races in 2020. While Democrats look strong in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Republicans have a lot of paths to victory.
Margins in Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona were all thin and are the states most likely to flip from blue to red.
Wisconsin is the “blue-wall” sate most likely to fall. the Republican senator and the Democratic governor both won reelection in 2022 and the 2020 Biden/Trump margin was 0.6 percent.
Georgia almost certainly flips if Trump is not the nominee, and its popular Republican governor is on the ticket.
Virginia with its popular Republican governor may also be in play.
Democrats seem to be doing a good job ticking off the electorate in New Hampshire by moving its prestigious first-in-the nation primary back.
No red state is likely to flip blue in 2024. North Carolina is a long shot.
Factor Three: Candidate quality
Both parties have a candidate quality problem at the presidential level and down ballot.
A Trump-Biden rematch would turn off most voters as evidenced by a poll that found 65 percent of voters do not want Biden to run again and 68 percent of voters do not want Trump to run again.
Trump the front number for the nomination is a criminal and may be unelectable in the general election. Most experts believe Trump will be the nominee. I believe he will not be the nominee and the nation will move onto other issues quickly.
Biden is gaffe prone. Fox highlights each gaffe but it is also being picked up by more reputable outlets like USA Today.
Kamala Harris is unpopular with poll numbers lower than Dan Quayle. Harris is important because Biden is old and unlikely to finish a second term. Nikki Haley has done a good job driving up this point.
Republicans tend to have highly contested primaries that often result in the nomination of bad candidates. This was the case in 2022 Senate races in Arizona and Pennsylvania and in 2022 gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona.
Democrats tend to let the establishment pick the candidate. Often the candidate is black because of the huge debt that the party owes black voters. In 2022, three senate candidates in
Florida, Wisconsin, and North Carolina won the Democratic nomination with no real competition, which means a lack of practice answering tough questions.
Factor Four: Abortion is a head wind for Republicans
Abortion is potentially a huge head wind for Republicans because their abortion positions are truly extreme. Democrats need to address several consequences of the Dobbs decision to take full advantage of this issue including
- efforts to ban mifepristone,
- impact of abortion ban on health and pregnancy related death rates,
- real-world consequences of abortion denials in Texas and elsewhere,
- efforts in the Republican controlled House for new abortion restrictions.
- The right of women in the military to an abortion and the impact of efforts to end that right on military nominations,
- The right to travel to another state for an abortion
- Efforts by Congressional Republicans to block FDA approval of the abortion pill.
Also, Democrats need to point out that late-term abortions as discussed here are rare and involve very difficult decisions.
The abortion issue did not make the difference in 2002 elections in Florida or Texas and may not turn an overwhelmingly red state blue. However, a pro-choice Democratic governor was re-elected in Kansas, a very red state and might prove decisive in the 2024 Kentucky gubernatorial contest.
Abortion could be the deciding issue in the presidential election in several swing states if the Democrats more effectively highlight consequence of Dobbs.
Factor Five: Racial Issues
Racial politics cuts both ways.
Republicans seem to either condone racism or claim it is not a major problem.
Democratic remedies for racism often undermine attempt to reward hard work and make decisions based on merit.
Trump was easily to depict as a racist. Remember the some very fine people on both sides remark.
Pence appears to believe that systematic racism does not exist.
DeSantis is against virtually all efforts to increase diversity.
The inability of these candidates to address white extremism and violence and the tendency to deny the existence of systematic racism could sway many moderate voters.
On the other hand, polices favored by Democrats often provide large benefits to less qualified minorities and undermine the notion that decisions should be based on merit.
Prior to the recent Supreme court decision overturning affirmative action in higher education, Harvard systematically gave Asian applicants a lower personality score to increase representation of other minorities. Polling data finds that Americans approve of the Scotus decision.
The end of testing for admission to an elite high school in Virginia and the growth of test-blind admissions for college penalize people who prioritize academics and undermines the process of making decisions on merit.
Democrats increase turnout among black voters and lose support among other groups, especially Asians, for their support of these preferences.
The question for this campaign is how far each party will go to pander to its extreme.
Factor Six: Economic Discontent.
Biden is presiding over a robust economy stronger than the rest of the world with a low unemployment rate and a still high but declining inflation rate. However, Biden has a low approval rating on the economy. Here are some of the reasons for the disconnect.
- High interest rates have increased the cost of consumer loans and mortgages and have reduced affordability for new homes.
- The inflation rate for food, an essential product, was especially high.
- 49 percent of adults approaching retirement age have no retirement savings. Recently enacted policy changes are not likely to have a major impact on retirement savings.
- Many people do not realize much in additional disposable income from additional work because state-exchange health insurance premiums and Income Driven Replacement Student loan programs are linked to income. (Work on this topic will be available shortly.)
- The re-start of student loan payment obligations will have an adverse financial impact for many households as shown here.
- Affordability of housing is at its lowest level since 1984.
Concluding Thoughts: There is no doubt that Biden is presiding over a strong economy and has enacted major laws impacting health care, infrastructure, and the environment. It is notable that many of Biden Administration’s legislative achievements have either phased out or are scheduled to sunset. Also, Biden has done a better job criticizing Republican health care proposals than putting forward reforms that would resolve the impending reductions to Social Security and Medicare while increasing retirement savings of younger workers. Unfortunately, the merits of innovative policy proposals will not be central to the 2024 presidential election.