AMAC Exclusive – By Barry Casselman
The 2024 national election cycle is now underway, but of the major contests—the presidency, the House, and the Senate—only the political prospects for the Senate can be seen with any clarity.
The GOP goes into the Senate campaign with a distinct advantage. Only 11 of their seats will be on the ballot, and none of them appear vulnerable at this point.
23 Democrat seats, however, are up for re-election, and 8-10 of those now appear vulnerable to a GOP pick-up. With the liberal party only having control by a 51-49 margin, Republicans have a good chance of regaining control.
Meanwhile, the all-important presidential race remains up in the air, with only some of the anticipated Republican field so far declared, and a considerable question yet to be answered as to whether President Biden will be running, and if so, whether he will be opposed for the Democrat nomination.
Finally, control of the U.S. House is also at stake, with all of its seats on the ballot. Republicans today control the U.S. House 222-213, a four-vote margin. The big question at this early point in the cycle is whether either party has an initial advantage for 2024.
Reapportionment and redistricting was largely complete by the 2022 midterms, but two relatively large delegations will see redistricting before Election Day, 2024: Ohio with 15 seats (currently 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats) and North Carolina with 14 seats (currently 7 seats for each party).
The remaining 406 districts are settled in their boundaries, and about 340 of those appear non-competitive. This leaves control of the House of Representatives to be decided in approximately 64-66 races, and by the final determination of the new boundaries of the Ohio and North Carolina congressional districts.
Predictions on outcomes for the vulnerable House seats are particularly difficult because the names of the challengers to incumbents, and the names of both nominees in the open seats are mostly unknown. Not only is polling unavailable for most of these races, but the possible impact of the 2024 presidential contest is unknown.
Furthermore, and most important, the domestic and global environment is unknown 20 months before voters go to the polls.
Although President Biden is currently expected to run for a second term, he faces a number of atypical obstacles for an incumbent running for re-election.
First of all, he has been regarded unfavorably in voter polls for most of his first term, and remains so.
Second, he will be 82 years old in 2024, and has continually appeared frail in his public appearances.
Third, his vice president, Kamala Harris, is even more unpopular than he is, including among Democrats, and considering she would be on the ticket with an aging president, this would seem to be a significant liability in 2024.
Fourth, a large number of domestic and international issues loom as unresolved going into next year, including a worsening and chronic southern border crisis, a newly appearing banking crisis, continuing inflation, transportation and education problems, the cost of the war in Ukraine, and the economic and military threat from China.
U.S. House races are historically less influenced by national and international issues, and most often reflect local and regional concerns more. Yet the better-than-expected outcomes for Democrats in 2022 were, in the eyes of many observers, largely determined by the abortion issue, and by Republican inability often to clarify the issues of their campaigns.
The GOP also nominated weak candidates in several competitive districts. Democrats raised far more campaign funds than Republicans last cycle, and conducted more aggressive and hard-ball campaigns.
Unless the conservatives have learned nothing from their 2022 campaign experiences, including the price of nominating weak candidates in key races, the 2024 landscape offers them an opportunity to increase their margin in the U.S. House (as well as regain control the U.S. Senate and reoccupy the White House).
In addition, many Republicans, once critical of early voting, expanded mail-in voting, and so-called ballot harvesting, now appear to embrace these innovations, which have clearly worked to the advantage of Democrat candidates in recent elections.
Republicans will also need to field a credible and appealing presidential ticket which presents a clear contrast to the ticket the Democrats finally settle on.
Yes, the prospects for conservatives in 2024 appear bright a year before the next cycle’s campaign, but as everyone learned from the last one, political optimism without the pragmatic and aggressive hard political work that actually makes the difference between winners and losers can lead to disappointment and failure.