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At first glance, the 2024 presidential election evokes déjà vu. President Biden and former President Trump are the leading candidates, voters are sharply and evenly divided, and debates about policy are already giving way to attacks on leadership and personality. If both candidates make it to the general election ballot, it will mark the first time since 1956 that America has chosen a presidential rematch.

A look beneath the surface reveals new campaign themes and electoral vulnerabilities. Biden has presided over an economy that has delivered low unemployment but decades-high inflation, and most economists are pessimistic about the year ahead. He is also the oldest person ever to occupy the office and is now seeking a term that would end at age 86. 

Meanwhile, former President Trump has not appeared on a ballot since he baselessly cast doubt on the 2020 election, an effort which culminated with thousands of individuals storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. This month, he was indicted for allegedly keeping classified documents, including national defense information, at his Florida social club and obstructing attempts to recover them.

Additionally, there is no guarantee that the front-runners stay that way through primary season. Biden has an overwhelming lead in Democratic primary polls, but insiders privately worry about his stamina to hit the road over the next year and a half. Trump enjoys a commanding lead in a field of a dozen candidates, but if 53% of Republican voters support him, that means 47% do not. His fortunes may change as the field narrows.

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If Biden and Trump end up on the general election ballot in 2024, they are likely to return to familiar playbooks. Biden must hold onto a base that has proven eager to defeat Trump since 2016, while convincing enough moderates, independents and a sliver of lean-Republican voters to stick with him. Speaking of 2016, Trump will win most easily with depressed turnout among those groups and a fired-up Republican base.

This is the first edition of the Fox News Power Rankings for the 2024 election, with a preview of the battleground states in the presidential race. Come back tomorrow for a first look at congressional maps and governor races.

Presidential: Biden will play defense in five fiercely competitive states; both parties have pickup opportunities

power rankings competitive states

Here are the states that may ultimately decide the presidential election in 2024. (Fox News)

Biden won three states on a margin of less than one point in 2020: Georgia (0.2), Arizona (0.3) and Wisconsin (0.7). The average margin between the incumbent and his predecessor in these states was just 14,306 votes. 

Biden’s victories in all three came firstly from suburban voters, who have higher incomes and are more highly educated than rural voters. They tend to favor abortion rights and support spending on health care and education, and also grew weary of Trump’s rhetoric. That gave Biden big gains in places like Maricopa County, Arizona, which is both the most populated county in the United States, and home to the most populated suburb, Mesa. Maricopa also led the nation in population growth last year, due in part to wealthy, urban workers who fled cities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The question is whether those suburban voters will show up for Biden again, especially if there is a prolonged economic downturn.

close 2024 presidential battleground states

These states saw the closest margins in 2020. (Fox News)

Minorities also played an important role. Hispanic voters in Arizona and Black voters in Georgia were critical to Biden’s victories in both states, and each group continues to lean toward Democrats. However, Republicans have opportunities. Latino or Hispanic voters shifted 7 points toward the GOP between the last two midterms cycles, according to our Fox News Voter Analysis, with 39% supporting Republicans in 2022. Black voters are firmly in the Democrats’ corner, and Biden will be wise to run up registration and turnout as much as he can in places like Atlanta and Milwaukee. 

The GOP may be able to chip away at that by elevating figures like Tim Scott, R-S.C., who is the only Black Republican in the Senate.

Just outside the one-point margin lies Pennsylvania (1.2). The Keystone State flipped from Trump to Biden in 2020 and has similar dynamics to the three closest states. Biden also benefited from messaging that was more friendly to working class voters than Clinton’s campaign in 2016, and heavy investment in the state. Democrats won their statewide races here in 2022, but that was largely due to weak GOP candidates, and the Republicans will look to activate White rural voters who delivered Trump a win seven years ago.

In Nevada, the Reid Machine is still humming; Biden won the state by 2.4 points in 2020. However, Nevada’s economy was badly damaged by the pandemic, and the state still has not fully recovered on employment or labor force participation. Voters delivered Democrats a mixed bag in 2022 by holding onto the party’s incumbent senator but ejecting their governor.

2024 presidential pickup states

One state that could prove beneficial for each party; here are the 2020 results. (Fox News)

A good night for Republicans would see them pick up Michigan, a key stop on Trump’s road to 270 in 2016. The state drifted away from the GOP in 2020 thanks to increased Democratic turnout, especially among workingclass and Black voters; Biden won it on a 2.7-point margin. Democrats were buoyed by strong results in the midterms, with a 10.5-point win in the governor’s race and a state government trifecta. Watch for polling about voter attitudes toward the economy, trade and jobs.

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Biden and the Democratic National Committee are already buying ads in all six of the states mentioned so far. A good night for them would mean flipping North Carolina. The Tar Heel State has proven elusive for the left since 2008, but population growth over the previous decade has been concentrated in suburban areas. The state was also one of the major gainers of wealthy, urban Americans from surrounding states during the pandemic. Over the same period, dozens of deep red rural counties saw their populations decline.

power rankings 2024 competitive states

Here are other states that likely will prove crucial for each party in 2024. (Fox News)

Five more states are competitive but unlikely to receive the lion’s share of attention. Republicans need to retain Texas and Florida, which now add up to 70 electoral college votes (up three from 2020). Democrats should keep an eye on New Hampshire, Virginia and Minnesota. These states have much smaller populations and thus electoral college hauls (a total of 27 votes), but a loss in any of them would drastically narrow Biden’s path to victory.

Senate: A standout map for Republicans

The Democratic Party is playing more defense on the Senate map. There are 34 seats in play, eight of which are very competitive. Republican candidates only need to flip two seats at most to take control of the Senate. If the GOP wins the presidency, the party needs to take only one seat away from Democrats (because the vice president casts a tie-breaking vote).

Senate seats held by Democrats in Trump states

Republicans’ best Senate pickup opportunities are in states Trump won in 2020. (Fox News)

Democrats hold seats in three states that Trump won in 2020: 

  1. Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester is seeking a fourth term. Trump won the state by 16 points in 2020.
  2. Ohio, where Sen. Sherrod Brown is also seeking a fourth term. Trump won the state by eight points in 2020.
  3. West Virginia, where Sen. Joe Manchin is noncommittal about seeking a third full term. Trump won the state by 39 points in 2020.

The GOP’s best pickup opportunities are in these three seats, and the party should feel confident about its chances in each. Montana and West Virginia have large White rural populations, and all three Democrats are facing an election with Trump at the top of the same ticket for the first time. Ohio was decided on a single-digit point margin in 2020, but as this column has noted previously, White working-class voters abandoned Democrats in the Buckeye State seven years ago. They have shown no desire to come back.

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So far, Republicans are running smart campaigns in these states. That includes, for example, hammering Manchin for his support of the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes $369 billion to combat climate change. The senator recognizes his weakness here; he has since loudly complained about the Biden administration’s handling of the bill. But the same legislation lowers prescription drug costs and invests billions of dollars into farmers and ranchers. Republicans should expect Manchin to play up these wins.

Electoral incumbency advantage is also strongest in the lowest populated states, giving Democrats a glimmer of hope.

2024 competitive Senate states

Watch the Senate races in these states in 2024. (Fox News)

Republicans have an opportunity in Arizona, where incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has yet to decide whether she will run for a second term. If she does, it will be as an independent. Sinema left the Democratic Party in December last year, citing its leftward drift as a key reason. In a general election, that would likely split center-left voters between her and her leading Democratic rival Rep. Ruben Gallego, delivering a win to the Republican nominee.

Reporting from the Wall Street Journal indicates that Sinema is preparing for a re-election campaign. If she decides not to run, then the Copper State is more complicated for the GOP. Far-right firebrand candidates stopped the party from taking back the Senate in 2022, and there are murmurs that former local news host Kari Lake will enter the race. She narrowly lost her bid for governor last year, and has since baselessly claimed that the election was stolen, further limiting her appeal to moderates and independents.

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National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Sen. Steve Daines says the party will do “whatever it takes” to recruit candidates who can win both a primary and general election next year, and the party will need to if it wants to take control of the upper chamber.

The rest of the highly competitive seats are in states where the presidential contest will be tight as well: Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Expect heavy investment from both parties in all four.

House: No room for GOP error after Dem redistricting wins

GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy already has a loose grip on his speaker’s gavel. His party holds 222 seats in the lower chamber, or a mere five-seat majority. With all 435 House seats in play every two years, Republicans will need a perfect national operation to remain in power in 2025.

House balance of power chart

Republicans hold a slim majority in the House of Representatives. (Fox News)

Before the Republicans draw up playbooks for those 435 districts, they will need to contend with a less favorable map in at least one state. Over the last two years, voting rights groups have filed dozens of lawsuits across the country to challenge new district maps that they’ve claimed unlawfully discriminated against minorities. These groups notched a key win earlier this month, when the Supreme Court ordered Alabama to redraw its district map. The changes will likely result in a second Black majority seat, and Black voters there favored Democrats by 67 points in the midterms. 

invalidated alabama congressional map

The Supreme Court ordered Alabama to redraw its congressional map this month. (Fox News)

Voting rights groups filed a very similar lawsuit in Louisiana, and on Monday, the Supreme Court lifted its hold on that case. That could create another Black majority district. There are redistricting challenges in Georgia and South Carolina as well. Meanwhile, Democratic-linked plaintiffs in New York are trying to restart their redistricting process after a botched gerrymandering attempt in the 2022 midterms left them with only 15 out of 26 districts. New maps in these states would leave Republicans with virtually no room for error elsewhere.

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There are dozens of competitive races in every House cycle. Like their Senate counterparts, Republicans are bullish that they can expand the map with better recruitment and more targeted investment. Look for a full Power Rankings breakdown of the competitive seats as primary season kicks off. 

New York House pickup opportunity

Democrats sense a pickup opportunity for the seat held by Rep. George Santos in New York. (Fox News)

One seat the GOP will need to triage is New York’s 3rd congressional district. The Long Island district, represented by scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos, stands out among all others as a possible flip. Voters there gave Santos a 7% favorable rating in a Siena poll conducted in January, so Republican hopes of keeping the district hinge on wiping him out in the primary. They may already have their candidate in Air Force officer Kellen Curry. Democrats smell blood, particularly given Santos won the seat on an eight-point margin in 2022.

Governor: North Carolina and not much else in 2024; watch for competitive races in the south in 2023

Three Southern states will hold their governor’s elections in 2023: Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi. They are all competitive. Look out for a full Power Rankings breakdown of those races as Election Day draws closer.

Voters get a reprieve from high-profile governor’s races in 2024. They will hit the polls in 11 low-population states but are very likely to stick with the incumbent party in 10 of them. 

Competitive governor's races in 2023 and 2024

These states will see critical governor’s races in 2023 and 2024. (Fox News)

The exception is North Carolina, where Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is term-limited. Despite a center-right lean at the federal level, which is what makes this race competitive, the GOP have only won four gubernatorial elections in the last century. Attorney General Josh Stein is the only notable declared Democratic candidate and has kept a relatively low profile, while Trump has pledged his endorsement to Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. He is the first Black man to hold that position and has a long history of condemning homosexuality. He will face off against at least two other notable candidates in the GOP primary.

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Road to the first debate

Fox News’ Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum will moderate the first Republican primary debate on Wednesday, Aug. 23; the RNC has published a set of criteria that candidates will need to reach to make the stage. It will be the first of many. Democrats held 11 presidential debates for the 2020 cycle, and the GOP held 12 in 2016.

In the meantime, our reporters are following the candidates and asking the tough questions as they travel across the country. Watch Fox News Channel as Democracy ’24 begins.

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