We have way more questions than answers about the 2024 presidential election.
Is President Joe Biden going to run again? He has said he plans to, but if he doesn’t, who emerges as the Democratic nominee? Is former President Donald Trump going to run again? Would anyone seriously challenge him for the Republican nomination?
Like I said, more unknowns than knowns.
But if recent history is any guide, we do know one important thing: The 2024 election is very likely to be extremely close.
That point is made powerfully in a new paper from William A. Galston and Elaine Kamarck published by the Progressive Policy Institute that lays out the challenges – and dangers – for Democrats in the coming presidential race.
This stat from the study stood out to me:
“Of the 17 presidential elections between 1920 and 1984, 10 were settled by margins of 10 percentage points or more in the popular vote. … But in the nine elections between 1988 and 2020, no candidate has come close to a 10-point victory margin, and five of the past six have been settled by margins of less than 5 percentage points.”
Which is pretty remarkable. In fact, when you combine all the votes – approximately 1 billion – cast for the two major party nominees over those last nine elections, Democrats took 51.2% of the total vote, while Republicans took 48.2%, as Galston and Kamarck note. That’s pretty darn close to an even split.
The reality those numbers expose is that we have been – and remain in – a period of instability in which neither party has been able to secure the electoral upper hand over a long period of time. (In the nine most recent presidential elections, control of the White House has changed five times.)
Galston and Kamarck conclude :
“Until one political party breaks the stalemate and forges an enduring national majority, close elections will remain the rule, swing voters in swing states will remain the key to victory, and grandiose interpretations of victory will prove to be hollow if not downright dangerous.”
The Point: Predictions that Trump can’t win the presidency again if he runs are directly disputed by the findings in this paper. The 2024 race will almost certainly be a nip-and-tuck affair, meaning that Trump’s odds of winning would be something very close to a coin flip.