Hollywood’s actors, directors and writers have settled their strikes against the entertainment industry with the promise of fresh new programming on the horizon.
Many wish that deal applied at the highest rung of America’s political ladder.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a time like this where voters are telling us one thing and they’re not subtle about it: ‘Please don’t let 2024 be a sequel.’ And yet it’s almost assured that’s what they’re getting,” Amy Walter, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, told a session during NCSL’s Base Camp.
“Younger voters and voters of color just aren’t as interested as they were in 2020 or 2016 or even 2012.”
—Amy Walter, Cook Political Report with Amy Walter
“On the Democratic side I’d argue if it were up to Democratic voters, they would choose someone else,” she says, “but the elites, the establishment, they’re choosing to rally around President Biden because the bigger fear is that an intraparty fight makes Biden much weaker against Donald Trump.
“In the Republican party, it is the elites and establishment who really want Donald Trump to go away. (Trump) voters are not only happy with Donald Trump, they feel he has been underestimated and certainly persecuted by all those who have been against him from the beginning. That sets it up for a rematch.”
All things being equal, she said, the same handful of states that determined the 2020 election will play the same role in 2024.
Walter said the Cook Report had only four states rated as tossups: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia. Only three states—Nevada, Michigan and North Carolina—are leaning to one party or the other.
“That’s a pretty small map,” she says. “The contention from Democrats is, ‘Look, we’ve been playing on this playing field since 2016 and since then we’ve won statewide races in all those states.’
“Biden is much less popular than he was in 2020, and the economy is in worse shape, according to voters. Younger voters and voters of color just aren’t as interested as they were in 2020 or 2016 or even 2012.”
Still, Walter said she is wary of looking at job approval ratings and assuming all those people—about 55%—are going to vote for Trump. “A lot of them are going to vote for Joe Biden,” she says. “The challenge is his age and there’s no easy way to do that. That is coloring their perception, their enthusiasm for him. No matter what he does, is he going to make it through a second term? That’s the question they’re grappling with.
“He’s not just 81 now, but as he goes on, his voice is softer, his gait is less confident that it was. People see what’s right in front of them. That’s not an easily solvable problem. Two things (Democrats) counting on in matching up with Trump are that the stakes and contrast are clear, and the campaign presents him not so that ‘I physically am the fighter’ but ‘I’m the one who’s fighting for you with my policies and my accomplishments.’”
Trump’s problem, Walter said, is “he does really great with his base and he knows how to turn them out, but that base only gets you so far. He has a high floor and a low ceiling, and there is no indication that he is more appealing to swing voters today than he was in 2020.”
Responding to an audience question about Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s third-party candidacy, Walter said ballot access is difficult, “but if he’s only on in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona, that’s enough to make a difference in who’s the president of the United States.”
The Republicans’ five-vote majority in the U.S. House will be a major issue through next year’s election.
“In 2020, the difference between Democrats and Republicans in control was about 30,000 voters; in 2022 it was 6,000,” she says. “The House hasn’t flipped in a presidential year since the 1950s.”
The Democrats, she said, face a very difficult path to keeping their Senate majority, with eight Democrats running in states that are either going to be very close or that Trump is going to win big. And the path got steeper just a few minutes after the Base Camp session ended when Sen. Joe Manchin, the conservative West Virginia Democrat, announced he would not run for reelection.
Voters, she said, “are cynical and depressed and mostly just don’t understand why members of the legislature, federal or state, can’t work together to get stuff done.”
Mark Wolf is a senior editor at NCSL.