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Politics Ten 2024 contenders facing big stakes in midterms

14:22  06 october  2022
14:22  06 october  2022 Source:   thehill.com

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This year’s midterm elections are destined to shape the 2024 hopes of several leading figures in both parties.

  Ten 2024 contenders facing big stakes in midterms © Provided by The Hill

For some, the results will put a dent in their future ambitions. For others, they will be fuel for the quest ahead.

Here are 10 of the big names with a lot to win or lose in November — whether or not they are candidates themselves.

Republicans

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

DeSantis wants not just a win but a big win over his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist.

DeSantis is second only to former President Trump in the 2024 presidential stakes for the GOP.

If Trump were to decline to run, DeSantis would be the undisputed favorite. Even if Trump does run, DeSantis’s backers think he is the only person in the party who could conceivably beat the former president.

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But to help make that case, DeSantis — in the national spotlight after Hurricane Ian — needs the widest possible margin over Crist, himself a former governor.

In 2018, DeSantis shaded Democrat Andrew Gillum by less than a percentage point. A Wednesday poll had him leading Crist by 11 points.

An actual result like that in a battleground state — albeit an increasingly Republican-leaning one — would demonstrate that the Florida governor has wider appeal than his many critics would like to acknowledge.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Abbott Is in many ways a similar figure to DeSantis — a big-state governor who has thrilled conservatives and appalled liberals with his stances on hot-button issues such as immigration and abortion.

Abbott is thought to entertain 2024 ambitions of his own, though he has failed to draw the grassroots enthusiasm garnered by DeSantis.

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Abbott can get his due share of attention if he defeats his high-profile Democratic challenger, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, by an emphatic margin.

Abbott looks to be ahead comfortably. The RealClearPolitics polling average puts him up almost 9 points.

However, O’Rourke was widely perceived to win the only debate between the two men, in Edinburg, on Friday.

The Democrat is banking on turning out young voters, as well as women who support abortion rights, in unexpectedly large numbers.

If O’Rourke even runs Abbott close, it will be damaging to the Texas governor’s electoral standing.

Former President Trump

Trump has made the midterms about himself, as he is prone to do about most things.

His endorsement lifted candidates to primary victories in a number of crucial races — but some of them have struggled in their general election campaigns.

Among the most closely watched Trump nominees on Nov. 8 will be Mehmet Oz, J.D. Vance, Herschel Walker and Blake Masters, the GOP Senate nominees in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia and Arizona, respectively.

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These victories or defeats will be seen as verdicts by proxy on Trump himself.

The former president has hit the campaign trail for several of his candidates in recent weeks, though his rallies often seem like unofficial Trump 2024 events rather than being especially midterms-focused.

Some in the GOP fret about Trump’s influence on the party. A comment from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressing worry about “candidate quality” was widely seen as a jab at Trump.

But wins for his candidates on Nov. 8 could tighten Trump’s grip on the party — and the 2024 nomination if he wants it.

Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.)

Scott is not a candidate in this year’s midterms, but his fortunes will be tied to the result because of his leadership of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign fundraising arm of the Senate GOP.

November’s outcome is personal to Scott for more specific reasons too.

Back in February, Scott announced an 11-point plan to “Rescue America.”

But Democrats seized on the road map, which includes deeply controversial proposals such as making all federal legislation — which would include Social Security and Medicare — subject to congressional reauthorization or cancellation every five years.

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McConnell soon distanced himself from Scott’s plan, and relations between the two men appear frosty. Scott, in a recent op-ed, appeared to take a veiled shot at McConnell for being insufficiently supportive of GOP candidates.

In any event, the Florida senator might end up as a scapegoat if the GOP underperforms in the battle for the Senate.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem

Noem is in no danger at all in her own race. She is all but guaranteed to win reelection by a wide margin in her deeply conservative state over Democratic challenger Jamie Smith.

But Noem has generated some buzz as a possible 2024 contender.

Her opposition to COVID-19-related lockdowns appealed to many in the populist GOP base, as does her strong support for Trump — she hit out at the “un-American” FBI raid of his Mar-a-Lago estate in August, for example.

Noem will surely be watching the results from other governors and senators, including the likes of DeSantis, to see if there might be room for a bid of her own two years from now.

Democrats

President Biden

Biden has an enormous amount riding on the outcome on Nov. 8.

A big win for Republicans, such as a scenario in which they take the Senate and clinch a large majority in the House, would amount to a public repudiation of Biden’s first two years.

On a practical level, even GOP control of the House would probably stymie Biden from major action, at least on the domestic front, for the final half of his first term. Investigations into Biden’s administration, and into his family, are almost certain in this scenario.

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More to the point, a heavy defeat for Democrats would surely raise questions about whether the 79-year-old Biden should seek a second term.

On the other hand, if Democrats were to perform at the upper end of expectations, saving the Senate and at least limiting the GOP to a narrow House majority, Biden could easily make the argument that he is positioned to come back to win in 2024.

After all, former Presidents Clinton and Obama each won a second term after savage midterm defeats for Democrats in 1994 and 2010, respectively.

Vice President Harris

Harris is in an odd spot, politically speaking.

As vice president to a president more than two decades her senior, she is the heir apparent to the White House if Biden does not run again. But she can’t position herself too blatantly for that eventuality — or be seen to be critical of her boss — since doing so would be disloyal.

Harris has never quite shaken the perception that she has underperformed as vice president. An early overseas trip that went badly haunted perceptions of her for months, and topics on which she was supposed to be the administration’s point figure — migration and voting rights — have seen little progress.

To the extent that the midterms are a referendum on the Biden-Harris administration, it is to her benefit that Democrats do as well as possible.

But she will be keeping an eye on whether would-be rivals emerge strengthened or wounded on election night.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

Newsom is a shoo-in for reelection.

Polling has been fairly scant in his race against Republican Brian Dahle because the outcome is seen as such a foregone conclusion. A new survey this week from the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies showed Newsom up by 21 points.

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But Newsom has bigger fish to fry.

He has been more aggressive than any other leading Democrat in positioning himself as a possible 2024 contender.

Newsom has boosted his profile by picking fights with DeSantis in particular, even going so far as to buy TV ad time in Florida. His overarching argument is that Democrats should be more pugnacious in making their case against Republicans.

To that extent, Newsom could be a political beneficiary of a bad election for his party.

If Democrats are looking for an alternative possible leader when dawn breaks on Nov. 9, Newsom would be right there in the frame.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Whitmer looks like one of the big successes of this election cycle for Democrats.

Not so long ago, she was a top target of Republicans, in part because of her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the GOP vastly underestimated Whitmer, who has led her Trump-backed GOP challenger Tudor Dixon by double digits in several recent polls.

Whitmer has presented herself as a political pragmatist and has raised far more money than Dixon.

Whitmer is also a vigorous defender of abortion rights — and she could get an assist because of an abortion-related measure that is also on the ballot on Election Day.

Whitmer was talked about as a possible vice presidential choice for Biden in 2020.

A big win for the Michigan governor in November would elevate her standing even more.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Pritzker raised plenty of eyebrows during the summer when he first traveled to the key early state of New Hampshire and later told NBC News that he believed it was “certainly possible” that Biden would face a primary challenge.

Pritzker, like Newsom and Whitmer, looks safe for reelection. He was up by 15 points over Republican challenger and state Sen. Darren Bailey in a late September poll from The Hill, Emerson College and WGN-TV.

For Pritzker, Election Day is likely all about what happens elsewhere across the nation — and whether it broadens his window of opportunity for 2024.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.

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