Despite the hyper focus on the next election (largely driven by the narrow majorities in Congress and uncertainties around who the candidates will be on the top of the ticket), the 2024 election cycle is still very early. In fact, nobody had even announced their candidacy for President at this point in the 2016 or 2020 election cycles. While Republicans already have three candidates who have formally announced their candidacy for President – former President Donald Trump, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy – many more are expected to follow. Here are some key factors to consider as this election cycle evolves:
The Next Six Months Will Define Who is in the 2024 Race for the White House: It is somewhat unusual to already have three candidates announced for the Republican primary – the earliest candidate announced in the 2016 primary was in March with many of the others waiting until the summer (for example, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush did not announce until June). The Democratic primary in 2016 was no different as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders announced in April and May, respectively. The 2020 Democratic primary had a couple of very early entrants (Tulsi Gabbard in January of 2019 and Andrew Yang in November of 2017), but most candidates followed historic trends by starting to announce in April (including Joe Biden) and continuing throughout the summer of 2019. The bottom line here is that the field traditionally does not begin to form until the spring, so expect many more candidates to enter over the next six months.
Biden Campaign Uncertainty Comes with Democratic Chatter Behind the Scenes: As the White House has yet to make any announcement (or even an indication) around the President’s plans for 2024, speculation continues to soar. Many insiders are having discussions behind the scenes around potential alternative candidates should President Biden decide not to run. That scenario has the potential for dramatically adjusting the political dynamic in 2024 and would force Democrats into what might be a crowded primary that will be both expensive and time-consuming. It would also force Republicans to suddenly shift their narrative on the campaign trail, which is currently exclusively focused on President Biden and the work of the Administration.
The Need to Show Policy Wins Will Come with an Awkward Political Dance: The politics of policy is complicated, especially with a narrowly divided Congress and during a significant election cycle. Both sides need policy wins, and those wins come with both political opportunity and political risk. Getting those done in a hyper-partisan environment with an election on the horizon is only further complicated by the fact that negotiation (which is required in the current political landscape) does not align well with politics. While both parties will find it tough to come to the negotiating table, they will do so because they want an election message (both on the national stage and back home) that speaks to accomplishments, not just rhetoric. Policy wins are likely to be scattered, and even lost, among a crowded agenda full of messaging bills – but they will happen.
It is Too Early to Make Any Predictions… About Anything: Whether it is 621 days or just 62 days outside of an election, there is way too much time to make credible predictions about election outcomes or issues driving the debate. If you still believe in polls, Jeb Bush had big leads in July of 2015, and Hillary Clinton had enormous leads in October of 2016 – both lost to Donald Trump. As the election nears, independent voters decide who to support, and party loyalists increase their “get out the vote” efforts. In the early days of the campaign when candidates are not yet solidified and voters are not yet decided, predictions should not be taken seriously. That being said, Vegas odds are live on the 2024 election!
Expect the Unexpected: Elections force voters and supporters to only consider one scenario – their candidate or party being victorious. The last few elections have proven many expectations wrong and those who rely on the election (policymakers, stakeholders, etc.) need to consider a variety of scenarios given the unexpected has somewhat become the norm. The potential dynamics around the 2024 election could be so unusual that the unexpected scenarios may once again win on election day.