Voters in several states on Tuesday will head to the polls for the last major regularly scheduled general election before the presidency is on the ballot a year from now, and analysts and insiders are looking for clues about what may lie ahead from the results in many key races.
The banner race on Tuesday is probably Kentucky’s governor election, where incumbent Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear faces GOP challenger Attorney General Daniel Cameron. Cameron, who is backed strongly by former President Donald Trump, trailed Beshear significantly all year. Even as recently as earlier in October, he was down well into double digits, but polling released late last week suggests the race tightened considerably in the past few weeks. An Emerson College survey released in early October showed Beshear leading Cameron by 16 percent, but another survey from the same pollster conducted at the end of October and released on Friday last week showed Cameron holding a slight edge over Beshear when leaners are included and the two of them tied in the straight-up ballot test — a swing of 16 or 17 percent Cameron’s way in just a few weeks.
A Cameron win, which seemed like a long shot earlier in the fall, would be an electric jolt for Republicans heading into 2024 as it would mean, combined with Louisiana Governor-elect Jeff Landry’s stunning victory without a runoff a few weeks ago, that the GOP flipped both governor’s mansions it had a shot at this year from Democrat hands to Republican hands. Cameron said as much himself on Breitbart News Saturday on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel this weekend, arguing that a win for him would “help propel Donald Trump into the White House.”
The second biggest race of the day is Mississippi’s governor’s election, in which incumbent GOP Gov. Tate Reeves faces off against stronger-than-expected Democrat challenger Brandon Presley. If Reeves hangs on and Cameron wins, Republicans will be jubilantly galloping into 2024, the victors of the three big races of the year. But if Democrats take either or both of these, the left and establishment media will almost certainly play up those victories as major setbacks for the GOP heading into 2024 — and perhaps begin to force aside questions about incumbent Democrat President Joe Biden’s vulnerabilities in the wake of a series of recent brutal polls.
Voters in Virginia and New Jersey will also decide the future of their states, with many eyes on the Old Dominion state given its suburban nature and history as a possible bellwether. Just two years ago, now-Gov. Glenn Youngkin — a Republican — trounced former Democrat Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the governor election. Republicans now have a chance to take control of both chambers of Virginia’s legislature — but so do Democrats. Republicans face an even more uphill battle in New Jersey, but some races there could provide signs for what is to come. As for how much impact these 2023 Virginia and New Jersey results have on 2024, that remains to be seen.
Elsewhere in the country, voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania will vote on an abortion ballot measure and on a state Supreme Court Justice seat respectively. The Issue 1 vote in Ohio could test how strong the Democrats’ national message on abortion plays in an increasingly red state, whereas the Pennsylvania Supreme Court seat could change the outcome of some possible cases that could determine how the 2024 election is administered in the Keystone State even though it will not determine majority control there.
The biggest question coming out of Tuesday’s elections is of course whether or not a trend with the electorate can be discerned — and of course what trend that might be. A spate of bad news has beset the Biden White House, and Biden’s likely opponent in next year’s presidential election, Trump, has been riding high even as he faces major legal battles on a number of fronts. Trump spent Monday on the stand in a civil trial in New York where state Attorney General Letitia James’s office seeks to undercut his control of his business enterprise and the ability for him to do business in the Empire State. Then, later on Monday evening, Trump held tele-rallies with Kentucky’s Cameron and Mississippi’s Reeves where he encouraged voters in both states to back them on Tuesday.
Biden, meanwhile, spent Monday reeling from weekend polls from the New York Times showing him trailing Trump significantly in several key battleground states including Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia. Other recent polls have shown Trump leading Biden nationally and in other battleground states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and more.
Even outside of horse race tea leaves for 2024, Tuesday’s elections could send some signals on which issues are working for each party and which issues are not working. Republicans have been testing new messages designed to reach suburban voters in Virginia, while Democrats are honing their abortion pushes.
But as a word of caution, too, reading too much into off-year elections usually does not work out well for the over-confident in politics. Youngkin’s historic victory in 2021 had Republicans emboldened nationally as they set out to take back the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate in 2022 in the midterm elections, but they fell short in the Senate bid — actually net losing a seat — and while they did retake the House, the majority is far smaller than many in the GOP had hoped for. So whichever side wins big, or loses big, on Tuesday, it might not do well to read too much into those results in 2024.