Could Ticket Splitters Hurt Biden in 2024?

Could Ticket Splitters Hurt Biden in 2024?

(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Shutterstock)

Emel Akan

Emel Akan

5/24/2024

Updated: 5/24/2024

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President Joe Biden is struggling to win over key Democratic voting blocs in battleground states, according to recent polls. Yet, it’s becoming increasingly evident that this challenge is largely unique to the incumbent president himself, rather than indicative of a broader issue within the Democratic Party.
According to a recent poll by the New York Times and Siena College, the president trailed former President Donald Trump among registered voters in a head-to-head matchup in five out of six key swing states: Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin was the only state where the president had the advantage.
Among likely voters, which are considered a more accurate reflection, the race was tighter, with President Trump holding his advantage in five states and President Biden edging ahead in Michigan.
Meanwhile, the Senate races are showing a very different picture.
In four battleground states, Democratic Senate candidates outperformed President Biden, according to the New York Times/Siena College survey.
In Nevada, for example, where President Biden is facing his biggest challenge, President Trump holds a 12-point lead. However, in the Senate race, polls indicate that Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) is heading off her Republican opponent, Sam Brown, by 40 percent to 38 percent among registered voters.
In Arizona, the former president leads 49 percent to 42 percent. Meanwhile, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is ahead of his Republican rival for Senate, Kari Lake, by 4 points. And a most recent CBS News poll indicates an even wider margin, with Mr. Gallego holding a 13-point lead.

A study by the Center for Politics, since World War II, shows 196 instances of ticket-splitting, which means that states voted for a president from one party and a Senate candidate from another party.
However, that trend has become a lot less common in recent years.
In 2020, nearly 90 percent of candidate Biden and President Trump voters also opted for a congressional candidate from the same party. However, in the 1970s and ‘80s, that ratio was roughly 70 percent, according to the American National Election Studies.
“Split ticket voting at the Senate level is not as prevalent as it used to be,” Ford O’Connell, a political analyst and Republican strategist, told The Epoch Times.
Maine was the only state in 2020 where voters split their tickets, electing Democrat Mr. Biden for president and Republican Susan Collins for Senate.
President Joe Biden takes a selfie with supporters at a YMCA in Nashua, N.H., on May 21, 2024. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden takes a selfie with supporters at a YMCA in Nashua, N.H., on May 21, 2024. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Is 2024 Ripe for Ticket-Splitting?

Some observers are wondering if ticket splitters will return in 2024, given the large gaps in the survey results of presidential and Senate races.
Aside from Nevada and Arizona, President Biden is underperforming in Pennsylvania, where Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) leads by 5 points, and in Wisconsin, where Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) leads by 9 points, according to the New York Times/Siena College poll.
Even in red states like Ohio and Montana, where President Trump enjoys overwhelming popularity, Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) lead their Republican opponents in polls.
This is the opposite of what happened in 2020 when congressional Republicans outperformed President Trump and President Biden outperformed congressional Democrats.
Mitchell Brown, pollster and director of political strategy at Cygnal, said the large gaps are driven by President Biden’s historically low approval ratings.
This creates the possibility that President Trump could win several battleground states in 2024, while Democratic incumbent senators retain their seats in those races, Mr. Brown told The Epoch Times.
“When you look at Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, those are states where there’s a very real possibility of Trump winning, and then no one down the ticket following suit,” he said.
David Carlucci, a Democratic strategist and former New York state senator, believes that there is still hope for President Biden to narrow these gaps in swing states.
“The silver lining for Biden is that these voters haven’t fully abandoned the Democrats and might still be swayed back to his side,” Mr. Carlucci told The Epoch Times.
Recent polls indicate a decline in support for President Biden among younger, black, and Hispanic voters, a big concern for President Biden’s re-election campaign. These groups of voters express dissatisfaction with his economic management and response to the Gaza crisis.
The latest poll released by Bloomberg/Morning Consult also showed that in a hypothetical rematch across seven battleground states, the former president led with 48 percent compared to President Biden’s 44 percent.
Ron Klink, a senior policy adviser and former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, feels it’s too early to predict November with polls that aren’t very reliable, but he acknowledges that Americans are overall dissatisfied with President Biden’s performance.
A voter casts their ballots at a polling location at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Arlington, Va., on March 5, 2024. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

A voter casts their ballots at a polling location at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Arlington, Va., on March 5, 2024. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

“I think part of it is that people forgot how bad it was and how sick we were, literally and figuratively, with COVID, and with the drama each and every day that we had during the Trump presidency,” Mr. Klink told The Epoch Times.
“I have full confidence that as we get closer to the election in the fall, President Biden and his campaign staff will be reminding people of that.”

Will Trump Boost Republicans?

Some political strategists believe that Democrats are likely to lose their Senate majority in 2024. With the current 51–49 majority, which includes independents, Democrats are already projected to lose an open seat in West Virginia currently held by Sen. Joe Manchin.
Mr. O'Connell believes President Trump’s strong lead in some swing states, as well as Ohio and Montana, poses a challenge to incumbent Senate Democrats. He believes the former president’s increased support among young, black, and Hispanic voters could help Republican candidates in tight Senate elections.
“If Trump wins, say, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio by enough points, he can carry all three Republican Senate candidates across the line against very tough Democratic incumbents,” he said.
Mr. Brown from Cygnal predicts that President Trump will contribute most to Senate elections by increasing voter turnout.
“How Trump helps is just the turnout game, because there’s a group of Republicans or a group of voters who didn’t turn out in 2022,” he said.
These are the individuals President Trump is likely to mobilize in the Senate races to win the majority, he said.

Midwest vs. Sun Belt

Recent polls indicate that Midwest swing states—Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania—will be critical for both presidents to win the 2024 election. In those states, President Biden has a stronger advantage among white working-class voters.
Recent surveys show that President Trump is more competitive in the Sun Belt swing states—Nevada, Georgia, and Arizona— than in the Midwest.
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump greets supporters at a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 23, 2024. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump greets supporters at a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 23, 2024. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Among registered voters, President Trump leads President Biden by 12 points in Nevada, 10 points in Georgia, 7 points in Arizona and Michigan, and 3 points in Pennsylvania, according to the New York Times/Siena Poll.
“The Sun Belt is right now much more favorable territory for Trump than the Midwest,” Mr. O’Connell said. “In the Sun Belt states, you have more Hispanics, more independents, who basically say inflation is the biggest problem.”
Mr. O'Connell says President Trump is performing considerably better in polls, in part because battleground states, particularly those in the Sun Belt, have a relatively high economic misery index.
The Bloomberg Economics Misery II index, which measures economic distress by adding cumulative inflation rates over four years to the most recent unemployment rate, is greater in the seven battleground states than elsewhere in the country. This partially explains President Biden’s dismal poll numbers.
Americans consider the economy important, but it’s not the sole factor influencing their decisions, Mr. Brown said.
In 2022, many expected the economy to be the decisive issue, but that wasn’t the case for Democrats, he noted, where abortion played a crucial role in their success.
“Relying on the economy alone is not enough for Republicans to win,” he said.
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Emel Akan

Emel Akan

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Emel Akan is a senior White House correspondent for The Epoch Times, where she covers the Biden administration. Prior to this role, she covered the economic policies of the Trump administration. Previously, she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.

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