Why the upcoming midterms have massive implications for 2024

With early voting complete in the Texas Primaries, according to the Austin-American Statesman, we are officially in midterm election season, for better or worse.

In the modern era, midterm elections almost always result in the president’s party losing seats. According to the American Presidency Project, out of the 19 midterm elections since WW2, the president’s party lost seats in the House in 17 elections. If Biden’s approval ratings are any metric, this cycle will also lead to the loss of Democratic control in the House, as the Democratic majority is only four seats above 218.

I will say the outlook isn’t totally bleak for the Democrats. The Republican Party isn’t entirely united–even if, according to the New York Times, its anti-Trump wing is woefully unorganized–and the Cook Political Report doesn’t have either party expecting to lose any Senate seats; they have three Democratic and three Republican seats listed as tossups.

There is a possibility that Democrats could take advantage of the situation; with the right strategy, they can avoid hemorrhaging house seats. If they hold on to the toss-up democratic senate seats and snatch one of the open republican seats, they could win an outright, Joe Manchin-proof majority.

This isn’t impossible, but it would take a lot of effort from candidates and staffers to beat back the midterm slide. If the Republicans patch up their image a little bit and focus on education and inflation, the GOP could lock up what should be an easy midterm victory, forcing the Biden administration to wait till 2024 for another shot at effective governance. 

Midterm elections are always important, but the probable outcome of a Republican house victory raises some important questions: Who is running and on what platform in 2024?

On the Republican side, if Trump chooses to launch a campaign, it’s likely he would at least win the nomination. However, he would be 78, and according to the Guardian, he’s currently embroiled in some legal issues, so a campaign is far from certain. On the other hand, if Trump doesn’t run, Republicans don’t have a clear frontrunner, and of the available candidates, it is uncertain whether they would run a Trump-style campaign.

Besides Trump, the top nine prospective GOP presidential candidates (listed by the Washington Post in order) are Ron Desantis, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, Jr., Tim Scott, Ted Cruz, Glenn Youngkin, Chris Sununu and Mike Pompeo. It’s unclear how any of them would run a campaign considering how far the GOP has shifted right.

For the Democrats, the problem is much more severe. While Biden has pledged to run again if in good health (CBS), the facts that he would be 81 come 2024 and that his approval ratings aren’t stellar are cause for pause. 

With the incumbent potentially bowing out, it’s natural to look to high-profile individuals in the executive branch. Unfortunately, Vice President Harris is almost underwater approval-wise, with a net -13% approval rate, according to the LA Times, and Secretary of State Anthony Bliken is a career diplomat and state department official, not exactly  presidential material.

If all this wasn’t bad enough, the Democratic party also hurt themselves with the contested primary in 2020, with strong candidates like Klobuchar, Warren and Buttigieg losing handily, not exactly leaving the best impression.

Even considering the popularity bonus that many governors have received nationwide for handling the pandemic, many good governors that could run, like Kentucky’s Andy Beshear and our own Roy Cooper, are needed in their home states to prevent Republican trifectas. 

For the Democratic Party, finding a viable candidate for 2024 is a Herculean task.

One of the most critical presidential elections in American history is a show with no leads right now. Neither of the traditional suspects seems like they would be good choices for either party, and the understudies on both sides seem less than ideal. 

According to The Guardian, the Republican party has been laying the groundwork for an election takeover for a while. While no potential candidate seems to be solidly in the “overturn democracy” camp, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there’s an excellent pro-democracy candidate yet, either. The party of the president is low on good choices with an unpopular administration, and their situation isn’t helped by the fact that a lot of promising talent got stomped just two years ago in the 2020 primaries or is needed to fend off challenges in their home states.

These upcoming midterm elections will decide the balance of Congress, as they always do, but the results hold dual importance in this cycle. With issues undecided and both parties lacking both unity and solid platforms, how the different candidates perform in these midterms will be a massive barometer for what the platforms should be and who the candidates should be come 2024.