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Forget everything else: These four states will decide the presidency

Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada are likely to decide the 2024 race

Eric Garcia
Wednesday 05 July 2023 21:05 BST
Former US President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd at a campaign event on July 1, 2023 in Pickens, South Carolina.
Former US President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd at a campaign event on July 1, 2023 in Pickens, South Carolina. (Getty Images)

We’ve now reached the second half of 2023, but in many ways, it’s only the end of the first quarter of the 2024 presidential election cycle. The field is essentially set at this point with most of the major candidates – including former president Donald Trump, President Joe Biden, Florida Gov Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov Nikki Haley and former vice president Mike Pence – all jumping in the fray, along with some negligible also-rans.

Both Mr Biden and Mr Trump face dismally low approval ratings, despite the fact that all signs point to a rematch of the 2020 presidential election come next November. At the same time, this new political era means that the conventional political map that most have followed for decades is not as relevant anymore.

Mr Trump’s presidency placed former swing states like Iowa, Ohio and Florida firmly in the Republican camp while the backlash to his presidency and Barack Obama’s time in the White House have turned Western states like Colorado and New Mexico into solidly Democratic states.

The intelligent folks at Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics compiled a list of four swing states. The list does not mean that these are the only states where candidates should campaign. But it is to say that these are the most evenly split states. Let’s take a look.

Georgia: The Peach State became the epicenter of elections in 2017 when a young Democratic candidate named Jon Ossoff ran in a special election in Georgia’s 6th District. Mr Ossoff narrowly lost that race but he tilled the field and made suburbs of Atlanta ground zero for the 2018 blue wave, which presaged Mr Biden’s 2020 win Mr Ossoff and Sen Raphael Warnock (D-GA)’s runoff victories in January of 2021. Mr Warnock won a full term in the Senate last year, which should make Democrats feel confident about their chances. At the same time, Republicans continue to dominate at the state level. Gov Brian Kemp (R-GA) crushed progressive star Stacey Abrams last year, partially because of his willingness to stand up against Mr Trump when the former president tried to have the election results overturned. A decidedly non-Trump-style Republican could easily do well in the state.

Arizona: Like Georgia, Arizona is relatively new to being a swing state. A Western state with a libertarian streak, it produced stalwart Republican senators like Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential nominee; and John McCain, the 2008 presidential nominee. But the Arizona GOP’s recent MAGA shift has made it fertile ground for Democrats, with Kyrsten Sinema becoming the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in 2018 before she became an independent. Mr Biden became the first Democrat since 1996 to win the state in 2020. And last year, Democrats ran the table in the Senate, the secretary of state, attorney general and governor’s races, all in tightly contested matchups. The 2024 race will largely come down to the suburbs of Phoenix and the state will also feature a Senate race, though Ms Sinema has not declared whether she will seek re-election.

Wisconsin: Mr Trump shocked the world in 2016 when he became the first Republican since Ronald Reagan in 1984 to win the Badger State, along with Michigan and Pennsylvania. Since then, Democrats have flipped both houses in Michigan’s state legislature and people regularly mention its Democratic Gov Gretchen Whitmer as a potential successor to Mr Biden while Pennsylvania has a slight Democratic tilt. That leaves Wisconsin, which is one of the most evenly divided states. Mr Biden won Wisconsin in 2020 while Democratic Gov Tony Evers narrowly won re-election last year. But Republican Sen Ron Johnson won a third term against Mandela Barnes, showing the right kind of Republican can still win in the state – though Mr Johnson still underperformed expectations. Since then, Democrats in Wisconsin have flipped the state’s Supreme Court after a special election.

Nevada: Longtime readers know that Nevada is always the state to watch. Despite the fact it has only six electoral votes, those votes can make a difference. Democrats have long relied on the state’s powerful culinary union and working-class Latino population. But as Latinos continue to move rightward, the state is no longer the shoo-in it once was. Mr Trump lost the state both times he ran for president, but by much smaller margins than Mitt Romney. Last year, Republican Joe Lombardo beat the incumbent Democratic Gov Steve Sisolak. At the same time, Democratic Sen Catherine Cortez Masto narrowly won re-election largely on the back of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v Jackson that overturned Roe v Wade.

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