By John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College
As Yogi Berra once said “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” The question is whether we can learn anything about November elections of 2024 based upon November elections of 2023.
If you’re a Republican, you are happy that the Republicans flipped Louisiana to the GOP column as Attorney General Jeff Landry won the state by 25 points, taking the Governor’s Mansion from Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards, who was unable to run again, being term limited. And the Republicans held on to Mississippi, as Governor Tate Reeves won reelection, despite some state scandals involving state spending and water problems in Jackson, Mississippi. He defeated a relative of Elvis Presley.
And that was pretty much it for good news for the GOP.
Democrats fared far better. Even though Donald Trump won the state of Kentucky by double-digits, first term Democratic Governor Andy Beshear won reelection by several points over Kentucky’s Attorney General, who was endorsed by Trump.
Fresh off a surprise win in 2021, GOP Governor Glenn Youngkin hoped to flip both Virginia state houses to the Republican side. But after the dust settled on Election Night, it was the Democratic Party who won the Virginia houses, a big blow to Youngkin’s hopes to ram through some conservative policies through this battleground state.
And Ohio, which went for Trump in 2020, saw a pro-choice referendum pass by a wide margin. Earlier, Democrats were able to turn away a plan to raise the threshold up to 60% to pass.
And those don’t count many other Democratic Party successes in state ballot initiatives, mayoral races other elections. In Mississippi and Louisiana, the party primarily lost because they lacked high-profile challengers, facing experienced statewide office runners for the GOP.
But all of these successes haven’t translated into success for the Democrats when it comes to polls. In several battleground states, early polls show Trump with a lead over President Joe Biden, something considered an ominous sign for Democrats, even despite the baggage of Trump with his numerous indictments and court cases.
Yet research of mine suggests that dumping Biden is not the best plan for Democrats. I looked at what happens when a president runs for reelection, and when a president steps aside, even when eligible to run for reelection, enabling someone else to launch their campaign. Presidents who run again win two-thirds of the time in these scenarios. When a president steps aside despite the ability to run again, the success rate for the party is only one in three.
The Democratic Party has to recognize how the party won. Abortion rights seem important to voters. But voters didn’t seem to be interested in partisanship. In particular, Beshear won by appealing to evidence of his independence from party politics. That may be an effective blueprint for the winner in 2024, whichever side chooses to demonstrate bipartisanship.