THE NARROW PATH — Iowa, Florida, and Ohio are gone. Minnesota is fool’s gold for Republicans. Texas remains out of reach for Democrats.
These are some of the early signs from the midterm election results, which provide some clues about the outline of the presidential battleground map in 2024.
One of the biggest questions about the next presidential race — whether election deniers and conspiracy theorists would be in charge of counting and certifying votes in key swing states — has been settled: They won’t. Election-denying candidates who ran for top offices in states such as Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania failed in their bids.
A few other things have become clear as well. Iowa, Florida and Ohio — each of them carried by former President Barack Obama as recently as 2012 — weren’t really considered core battleground states in 2020. Now, after Republican blowouts in those states this fall, they should be removed from the 2024 discussion altogether. If there were any remaining doubts about their drift to the right, they were dispelled by this year’s election results, which featured a GOP sweep in Iowa (where Republicans now hold all four House seats, both Senate seats, a state government trifecta and nearly all statewide elected offices); a red wave across Florida (where GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis won by nearly 20 percentage points) and Ohio (where Republican J.D. Vance won an open Senate seat and Gov. Mike DeWine won reelection by 26 points).
While Democratic prospects might not be as grim in Texas, the recent results don’t give much hope either that 2024 will be the year that rapid demographic change finally leads to a Democratic breakthrough: Republicans won their 14th consecutive sweep of statewide offices, led by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott’s top-of-the-ticket romp.
At the same time, strong Democratic midterm performances in New Hampshire and Minnesota — a state which offered former President Donald Trump a rare offensive opportunity in 2020 — suggest they might not be worth contesting in 2024. Minnesota, which some Republicans regarded as a Trump sleeper state in 2020, turned out to be a mirage. This year, there was even more evidence of that: Democrats won every state constitutional office for the third straight election cycle. In 2024, it will be 52 years since a Republican presidential nominee last carried Minnesota.
New Hampshire, which hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential nominee since 2000, also appears to be moving in the wrong direction — at least for a Republican Party led by Trump. In his first bid for president in 2016, he lost the state by less than one-half of a percentage point. Four years later, that margin was eight points. This year, Trumpist candidates lost both House races by healthy margins and the Senate election by double-digits. All of this took place as GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, a Trump nemesis, routed his Democratic foe to win reelection.
For Democrats, perhaps the most important midterm revelation of all was that the party is well-positioned to defend its “Blue Wall,” the term applied to a northern tier of 18 states, stretching from coast to coast, that appeared to provide a structural advantage for a Democratic nominee — at least prior to 2016, when Trump blew it up.
Michigan and Pennsylvania, big industrial states that serve as key building blocks in that wall, delivered sweeping victories for Democrats this year, two years after they rejected Trump’s bid for a second term. The populous suburbs outside Detroit and Philadelphia once again produced big Democratic margins — margins that buried Trump-endorsed, election denying GOP nominees for governor. Erosion in traditionally Republican western Michigan was another point of concern for the GOP. Since the two big industrial states have moved in tandem in every presidential election since 1988, it’s an ominous sign for Trump’s third bid for the White House.
Election results in North Carolina and Virginia were less conclusive. North Carolina, which now has 16 electoral votes, is too big and too competitive for Democrats to write off in a presidential race. Democrat Roy Cooper won the governorship in 2020, but it’s now voted Republican in three consecutive presidential contests, and in two open Senate races in the past two years. In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s 2021 victory and the ouster of a Democratic House incumbent will spark some Republican interest in the state, on the off chance that it isn’t as blue as it’s looked over the past decade.
One of the sharpest election analysts, Ron Brownstein, concluded that one of the lessons from the midterms is that the two parties have further consolidated their holds over states that already lean in their direction. Recent election results, he wrote, “point toward a 2024 presidential contest that will likely be decided by a tiny sliver of voters in a rapidly shrinking list of swing states.”
That small universe of states includes a handful of battlegrounds where photo-finish outcomes were commonplace in this year’s midterm contests — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Wisconsin. All were home to bitterly contested statewide races or mixed results that suggest the states remain as competitive and evenly divided as ever. It shouldn’t come as a surprise: in the 2020 presidential election, the four states were decided by a total of just 77,000 votes between them.
Welcome to POLITICO Nightly. Reach out with news, tips and ideas at [email protected]. Or contact tonight’s author at [email protected] or on Twitter at @PoliticoCharlie. A programming note: Nightly will be off for Thanksgiving this Thursday and Friday but back to our normal schedule on Monday, Nov. 28.
BACK TO THE FUTURE — Republican Kevin Kiley, a conservative favorite in California for his attacks on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, was declared the winner of the newly drawn 3rd District last night by the Associated Press. But as the picture in the House comes into focus, some defeated lawmakers and candidates are already looking towards 2024.
This week, Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.V.) announced that he would be running for Senate in 2024 with the hopes of making it through a Republican primary to challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.) will fight to regain a newly drawn seat that she lost to Democratic Rep.-elect Gabriel Vasquez. And Bo Hines, a young, Trump-endorsed candidate who lost in North Carolina, has also filed paperwork for a rematch against Democratic Rep.-elect Wiley Nickel.
Of course, plans change, and sometimes candidates don’t follow through even if they originally intend to run. However, these moves show people are thinking and moving earlier and earlier in the cycle. There’s very little time anymore for a break or to pause before thinking of your next electoral plans.
— Virginia police: Multiple people killed in Walmart shooting: A shooting at a Walmart in Virginia on Tuesday night left several people dead or wounded, though the exact numbers were not immediately known, police said. The shooter was among the dead, officials said. Officers responding to a report of a shooting in Chesapeake found several victims as they swept through the store over the course of about 40 minutes, Officer Leo Kosinski said in a briefing. Rescue teams were sent in to tend to the wounded. He did not know how many people died but said it was “less than 10, right now.”
— Georgia high court reinstates ban on abortions after 6 weeks: The Georgia Supreme Court today reinstated the state’s ban on abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy. In a one-page order, the high court put a lower court ruling overturning the ban on hold while it considers an appeal. Abortion providers who had resumed performing the procedure past six weeks after the lower court ruling will again have to stop.
— White House condemns twin Jerusalem bombings: The White House today condemned the two bombings overnight in Jerusalem that killed a Canadian teenager and left at least 18 injured. “We condemn unequivocally the acts of terror overnight in Jerusalem,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “The United States has offered all appropriate assistance to the Government of Israel as it investigates the attack and works to [bring] the perpetrators to justice.”
CHEMICAL CONCERNS — Biden administration officials have assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin may use chemical weapons in Ukraine first before resorting to a nuclear confrontation with NATO if his troops continue to lose ground, write Erin Banco and Lara Seligman.
The concerns, according to six people with knowledge of the matter, come amid a push by the administration to ensure allies are prepared for such an event, as well as to mobilize new resources and investments in manufacturing of detection systems for when the chemicals are used. The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive, internal deliberations, include U.S. and Defense Department officials.
The U.S. does not have any intelligence to suggest such an attack in Ukraine is imminent, the people said. In fact, many DoD officials believe the fighting will stall during the winter months, with neither side able to take much ground.
But in the case of continued battlefield losses, or a complete collapse of the Russian army, some top officials working on the issue have determined that Moscow might resort to employing chemical weapons — including those the country has been associated with using in the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
ANOTHER KIND OF THANKSGIVING — Thanksgiving is a complex holiday for indigenous people in the United States, not the least indigenous chefs, who are often conflicted about what to do on a holiday that’s all about cooking, but also includes painful reminders of their ancestors’ past. Part of what was lost when Europeans colonized America was many indigenous cooking techniques, and how traditional foods were cultivated and produced. Now, many indigenous chefs are trying to harken back to their traditions on Thanksgiving to give everyone a chance to understand where they came from, and why that’s important to them. Harmeet Kaur reports for CNN.
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