The 2024 election is officially less than a year away and for the campaigns that are not fully up and running, campaign season officially starts now. Even more jarring is the fact the first primary (the Iowa caucuses) is only 70 days away. Not only is the election seemingly on the horizon, the uncertainty (and corresponding anxiety) is significant, with a lot on the line for both parties. Here are a few things to focus on now that election season is upon us:
Republican Primary Trends Are Shifting, But Trump Remains Clear Leader: There have been some significant moves within the primary candidates – most notably former Vice President Mike Pence dropping out and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley competing for second place – but former President Trump remains clearly in the lead with an advantage of over 30 points.
President Biden Gets Bad News in Recent Polling: A New York Times poll released over the weekend is likely to spur some strategic changes within the Biden campaign. Among the six leading swing states, former President Trump leads President Biden in all but one of them according to this poll. Furthermore, polling in those states found that over 60% of voters in each state felt that the country was on the “wrong track," which is a foundational poll for determining sentiment for incumbent presidents.
Republicans Face Risk in the House, Democrats Face Risk in the Senate: 18 House Republicans represent districts that President Biden won in 2020, while only 5 House Democrats currently represent districts that former President Trump won in 2020. On the Senate side, Democrats carry much of the risk. Of the 34 Senate seats on the ballot in 2024, 23 of them are represented by Democrats (and 3 of those were won by former President Trump in 2020 – Montana, Weste Virginia, and Ohio).
The House and Senate Majorities are Both Very Much in Play: Thin margins for House and Senate majorities mean that the 2024 election can dramatically change the balance of power with only a handful of races. House Democrats only need a net gain of 5 seats to win back the majority. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans only need a net gain of 2 seats (or 1 if they also win the White House) to win back the majority. This means that every race has significant consequence attached to it. Furthermore, decisions for political organizations on offense vs defense can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of the election.
Voter Intensity TBD: It may be a little early to evaluate voter intensity (how excited voters are to vote for their candidate), but there continues to be a steady stream of frustration among some within each party about the potential candidates at the top of the ticket. Obviously, candidates hope for higher voter intensity as the election nears to avoid potential voters from not voting or casting a protest vote or write-in for someone else. This will be a metric to watch closely as the election nears.
Voters Still Care Most About the Economy: When voters head to the ballot box, most will have economy top of mind according to polls. While this is not much different than previous years, it’s a important reminder that today’s economy may be much different than when people start voting in the general election. That being said, interest rates, job growth, unemployment and inflation will most certainly be towards the top of talking points on the campaign trail.
The Policy System Has a Few More Months Before Politics Takes the Driver’s Seat: The confluence of the policy process and the election cycle could be good or bad (depending on where you are positioned), but policy generally becomes more difficult to move. Issues become “politically toxic” in some cases, and in other cases are used to put policymakers on record in way that can later utilized against them on the campaign trail. This is not the best environment to advance policies with bipartisan support (although it does happen), but it's generally what happens as the election cycle takes off.
The 2024 election will be interesting given the dynamics of both the candidates at the top of the ticket and the narrow majorities on both sides of the Capitol. It is, of course, still very early but the year will move fast and key decision points (especially the early primaries) are right around the corner so the landscape will likely evolve quickly.