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2024 Election Factors – Here’s What You Might Be Missing

The numbers are plain, but the devil is in the details.

by | Jun 19, 2024 | Articles, Opinion, Politics

One swallow does not a summer make, and the same is true for polls and elections. They can, however, be indicative. More importantly, they can offer warning signs to candidates looking to avoid an ignoble fate. While the Fourth Estate and respective campaigns tout each survey result they see as favorable, significant mitigating factors are often ignored. Without taking these additional dynamics into account, the public is not getting the full picture of Election 2024.

Third-Party Candidates Can’t Be Ignored

By this point in the season, the country is well aware that Donald Trump is leading nationally at roughly 0.8% — and equally aware that national polling is largely irrelevant. What counts are the swing states – and it is in these battlegrounds that one should examine the third-party threat.

This cycle, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the big-name independent. He claims his nascent campaign has – or soon will have – ballot access in all 50 states; although, for now, he can boast at least seven – no small feat. One of these is Michigan, where Biden won in 2020 and Trump won in 2016.

FiveThirtyEight has Kennedy averaging 7.5% based on a number of polls. A recent Mitchell Research & Communications survey hands him just 3.3%, Cornel West 1.1%, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein 0.5%. Digging into other polls suggests these three candidates could easily pull at least five points from the two main party players. The question then becomes: From whom do they pull?

It seems highly unlikely that West and Stein voters are being peeled off the Republican flank; RFK Jr.’s support appears to come from both sides of the aisle (although some surveys indicate they are more left-leaning than right). But in the battlegrounds like Michigan and Wisconsin — where Trump has only a small lead — those few points could make all the difference.

Iowa Has a 2024 Warning for Joe Biden

The Hawkeye State has been good to Trump, handing him election wins of 10% and 8% in 2016 and 2020, respectively. But the latest poll, courtesy of the Des Moines Register, suggests something of serious note is happening. The survey handed Trump 50% of the vote, not too surprising considering his previous captures. However, Biden was awarded just 32% in this tally — a massive drop that matches his plummeting approval rating among Iowans.

That 45 can win in Iowa is no surprise, but an 18-point drop in support (a full one-third plummet) for 46 since 2020 suggests something is rotten in the Biden campaign. In fact, with Iowa voters under the age of 35, the sitting president’s approval rating is a mere 15%. Geographically – and in many ways politically – Iowa bears some relation to its neighbor Wisconsin and the not-too-far-away Michigan.

If such negative sentiment is even only partially replicated in these crucial states, Biden is looking at an electoral disaster.

VP Picks Matter

For better or worse, Biden’s partner on the ballot is fixed. For Trump, however, his choice for vice president is still a card to play. Amid wild speculation about the eventual choice, 45 is keeping it close to his vest and running the process in a manner one might recall from his Apprentice days. Yes, this builds excitement and intrigue. Yes, it allows him to see who is willing to go all in on his behalf. But, most importantly, not announcing allows him to pivot on a dime to strengthen areas and shore up troubles – and do so closer to the election when the big upsets often appear.

Among the top-tier contenders are South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Naturally, there are a few wild card hints in the mix, too – such as a fresh name recently floated, one that could be an electoral game-changer: Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

Old Dominion had been trending blue for more than a decade before Youngkin threw his hat in the ring for the 2021 gubernatorial. By beating out former Gov. Terry McAuliffe – who was hoping for an easy-ride return – Youngkin demonstrated that he had appeal across the aisle. He is not considered a MAGA candidate and is palatable to voters who prefer a more middle-of-the-road steadiness over rhetoric, fire, and fury.

With Youngkin as his Election 2024 co-pilot, Trump could bring along a fair chunk of independent voters and – not unthinkably – maybe even Virginia’s 13 Electoral College votes.

Trump Out of Play?

The preceding three factors all seem to benefit former Trump. But the last one is very much one of former Bush (George W.) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns.”

GettyImages-2157625529 Donald Trump

Donald Trump (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

If one were to assign superpowers to presidential candidates, Trump’s would be his campaign energy – something that gains strength when seen in comparison to Biden and his quasi-Rose Garden strategy. From huge rallies in the deep blue South Bronx and New Jersey to record fundraising events in California, The Donald appears to be trying to park his campaign tank on Biden’s electoral lawn. But what if his superpower were taken away?

Trump is awaiting sentencing for 34 felony counts in New York City, his fate to be determined on July 11, just a few days shy of the Republican nominating convention. Judge Juan Merchan has shown no favoritism toward Trump, repeatedly denying motions, sustaining questionable objections during the trial, and even allowing the jury to hear from the prosecution that Trump was guilty of election crimes without District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s team even once specifying what those crimes were – let alone proving such accusations. So, predicting what the sentence could be remains a fool’s errand.

Yet there is a possibility that the former president could be incarcerated for some or all of the time remaining in the 2024 election – or even confined to house arrest. If Trump were politically hobbled in his ability to generate crowds and enthusiasm, that could prove a fatal blow to his hopes for re-election.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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