24 for ’24: The numbers that will shape a crucial year in politics

24 for ’24: The numbers that will shape a crucial year in politics

The presidential election year is finally upon us — and with it, many important questions.

Will a challenger emerge who can pose a significant threat to Donald Trump’s renomination? What are the signs that a rematch of the 2020 election might end differently? And which party will have the upper hand in the pitched battle to control Congress?

There are key data points that will answer all of these questions, if one knows where to look.

Here are 24 of those numbers to watch in the new year:


Donald Trump’s share of white evangelical Christian votes in Iowa

Eight years ago, Trump lagged with white evangelicals in Iowa (21 percent, tied with Marco Rubio for second place), who made up roughly six-in-10 caucusgoers, according to the entrance poll. But he’s now dominating this bloc — leading Ron DeSantis 56 percent to 22 percent, according to a recent Fox Business poll — foreclosing any path for DeSantis or Nikki Haley to usurp him.


Nikki Haley’s vote share among women in New Hampshire

If Haley is going to pull off an upset in the second GOP contest, she’ll need to improve upon a gender gap that’s developed in recent weeks: The strongest woman presidential candidate in Republican Party history is running better with men than women. A St. Anselm College poll this month, which showed Haley at 30 percent overall, found the former South Carolina governor only 6 points behind Trump among men, 40 percent to 34 percent, but a whopping 25 points shy of Trump among women, 48 percent to 23 percent.


Write-in vote share for “Joe Biden” in New Hampshire

The president’s name won’t be on the ballot in the first-in-the-nation primary next month thanks to the president’s efforts to put South Carolina first in the Democratic contest lineup, but his allies have launched a write-in campaign in an effort to deny Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) any oxygen off the bat. Still, the move isn’t without risk if the write-in effort falls short of expectations.


Biden’s approval rating

Historically, presidents with approval ratings significantly below 50 percent have lost reelection. As of Friday, Biden’s average approval rating stood at 40.5 percent, according to RealClearPolitics.


Number of Donald Trump convictions before Election Day

Between state charges in New York and Georgia, plus federal cases in D.C. and South Florida, the former president is currently facing 91 felony counts. Though the charges don’t seem to be deterring Republican primary voters, polling suggests a conviction could have a small but significant impact on Trump’s standing with the electorate.


The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index

The year ended with an uptick in consumer confidence measures, a possible sign of an improving economic outlook moving into the election year. Unlike other data that measures economic conditions, this stat is mostly based on how consumers feel about the country’s financial situation — and their own.


Number of states where Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is on the ballot

The glut of third-party candidates is complicating the electoral math, with Kennedy holding the greatest appeal in polls so far. A super PAC supporting his candidacy is starting the qualification process with a targeted list of large and competitive states, and Kennedy’s campaign says its goal is to get him on the ballot everywhere. Kennedy, Cornel West or a potential No Labels ticket could draw enough votes to be decisive in states where they’re on the ballot.


Number of general election debates for president

The bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates has scheduled the customary three meetings between the candidates (plus one for their running mates). But the Republican National Committee’s promise to boycott the commission raises questions about whether we’ll get to see any televised debates at all.


Number of states visited by Biden in the final two months of the campaign

For all the talk of Biden hiding in his basement in 2020, he made 57 campaign stops in 13 states from Sept. 1 through Election Day, according to the Chicago Tribune. He won’t have pandemic restrictions to deal with this time, but he’ll have to juggle his day job as president.


General election turnout rate

Will 2024 be more like 2020, or more like 2016? The turnout rate may hold the answer. In 2016, when the country wasn’t enamored with its candidates, about 61 percent of adult citizens voted, according to the Census Bureau. But in 2020 — with relatively positive views of Biden and Trump — 67 percent voted.


The enthusiasm gap

The signs were there in 2016, when Trump voters were more enthusiastic than those backing Hillary Clinton. Biden’s 2020 victory — powered more by voters casting ballots to oppose Trump than elect Biden — is a historical aberration. That dynamic is repeating itself even with Biden in the White House: Most of those who say they’ll back the president say they are doing so more to oppose Trump than support the incumbent.


The Biden-Trump split among voters who dislike both Biden and Trump

Views of both Biden and Trump — especially Biden — are more negative than they were last time, making this a key voting bloc. A recent Fox News poll showed Biden actually leading among the voters who don’t like him and Trump by 8 points, even though he trailed by 4 points overall.


The Biden-Trump split among voters who “somewhat disapprove” of Biden’s job performance

Part of the secret to Democrats’ better-than-expected midterm results was the fact that voters who said they “somewhat disapprove” of the job Biden was doing as president didn’t abandon the party, breaking roughly evenly among the two parties. Can Biden hold onto enough of those voters when he’s on the ballot himself?


The Biden-Trump split among women voters without college degrees

A subgroup that loops together two countervailing electoral trends — the widening gender and education gaps — women without college degrees made up roughly a third of the 2020 electorate, according to AP VoteCast, which showed Biden beating Trump by 2 points, roughly equal to his 4-point overall victory.


Biden’s vote share among voters younger than 30

Biden won 61 percent of voters between the ages of 18-29 in 2020, according to AP VoteCast. Some polls now show Trump running neck-and-neck with Biden or even leading among the youngest slice of the electorate — raising questions about whether there’s actually been a marked shift among this bloc or it’s a false signal.


Biden campaign ad spending in Florida

The Sunshine State is moving rapidly to the right. Democrats maintain they aren’t writing off its 30 electoral votes yet, but notably the Biden campaign ad blitz in the second half of 2023 didn’t include Florida — and save for North Carolina was concentrated exclusively in states the president won in the last election.


Republican ad spending on abortion messaging

Of the $428 million spent on abortion ads in the 2022 midterms, according to AdImpact, the vast majority was spent by Democrats. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s PAC was more proactive this year, but the GOP still lost the race to control the state legislature. There’s little sign of abortion diminishing as a motivating force for voters; will Republicans find a message on which to campaign, or will they avoid it?


Number of states with abortion ballot measures

From Kansas to Ohio, abortion rights are undefeated at the ballot box in the post-Dobbs era. Activists in a number of red or battleground states, including Arizona, Florida and Nevada, are trying to put initiatives on their 2024 ballots.


National murder rate

The murder rate is down about 13 percent from last year — the biggest annual drop ever. But will that decrease the salience of crime, which led to Republican gains in places like New York last year, as an issue next November?


Number of competitive Republican Senate primaries

Republicans only need to flip one Democratic-held Senate seat to win control of the chamber if they also win the White House — and with West Virginia almost a sure thing after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s retirement announcement, the GOP is already on the brink of the majority. But in most of their targeted seats — including Montana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin — the party faces the prospect of a knock-down, drag-out primary or has one already ongoing.


Candidates on the Arizona general-election ballot for Senate

Will Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) attempt an uphill independent bid for a second term, or will the fate of her seat come down to a more conventional Democrat (Rep. Ruben Gallego) vs. Republican (former gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake) race?


Democrats who qualify for the general election for Senate in California

For much of 2023, it looked like Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter were on a collision course for a Democrat-vs.-Democrat general election next November. But Republican Steve Garvey’s rise in the polls is jeopardizing that matchup — mostly to Porter’s detriment, according to polls that show Schiff inching out in front of the pack.


House districts flipped by Democrats in New York

Now that the state’s highest court has given New York Democrats a green light to redraw their congressional map, how aggressive the party gets could very well determine which party controls the House after the election. It’s possible Democrats could flip as many as six seats, with the first one potentially coming in a Feb. 13 special election to replace expelled former Rep. George Santos.


Number of House retirements

So far, 35 House members have said they won’t seek reelection — a list that doesn’t include the seven who’ve died, been expelled, resigned or said they will soon resign. Of those 35 retirees and members seeking other offices, 23 are Democrats — potentially complicating the party’s path back to the majority. And historically the retirement peak comes right after the holidays, so stay tuned for more.

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