By Jim Ellis — Monday, May 1, 2023
Battleground States: A Look Inside the Numbers — The key 2024 presidential campaign battleground states are already known, and a national polling firm just completed a study covering five of these critical domains.
Public Opinion Strategies (POS) conducted a series of 500-sample general election polls in the important battleground states during the April 11-20 period, and all of the surveys produced very close results while highlighting a familiar pattern. This research gives us an early indication that we will again see a tight general election campaign.
POS tested both former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis individually against President Joe Biden in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In every instance, we see DeSantis running better when paired against Biden than does Trump.
First, in Arizona, President Biden would lead Trump by a single point, 45-44 percent, while DeSantis would record a six-point advantage over the Democratic incumbent, 48-42 percent.
For Republicans, Arizona is one of the most critical states on the board. Unless the eventual GOP nominee can capture Arizona and Georgia — the Peach State was not included in the POS battleground state study – the chances of attaining national victory are almost nil. Together, these two states account for 27 of the 35 conversion electoral votes a Republican candidate will need to win the White House.
Michigan, based upon the 2022 election results, is now viewed as leaning decidedly toward the Democrats, so the Wolverine State will likely not be as heavily emphasized on the Republican target list as some of the others covered in the POS multi-state study. Still, the current polling results put the Republicans within early victory range.
The Michigan numbers echoed the similar pattern with the president running three points ahead of Trump, 45-42 percent, but trailing the Florida governor by two, 43-45 percent.
Almost the same pattern occurred in the Silver State of Nevada: Biden up one over Trump, 46-45 percent, but down three against DeSantis, 41-44 percent. Nevada turned in some of the closest 2022 election results. The Senate race was decided in the incumbent’s favor — Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D), by just 7,928 votes from 1.02 million ballots cast.
The Nevada electorate was also the only one in the country that defeated a senator or governor seeking re-election, as Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) fell to Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo (R). Splitting the statewide results – Democrats won four races, Republicans’ three – also attests to Nevada’s most recent swing voter behavior.
Again, we see the pattern of Biden topping Trump but trailing DeSantis occurring in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania. Here, President Biden would finish four points ahead of Trump, 46-42 percent, but falls behind when matched against Gov. DeSantis by a reversed 45-42 percent margin.
Flipping Pennsylvania to the Republicans would change the election. Adding the state’s 19 electoral votes to the GOP column would then mean that just winning Georgia, in addition to their 2020 states, would unseat the president. This is the only scenario where the Republicans could win the national election without converting both Arizona and Georgia.
Virtually the same Biden/Trump/DeSantis pattern is present in the Wisconsin data. Here, President Biden would lead Trump by three a percentage point margin, 47-44 percent, while he would only fight to a draw with Gov. DeSantis at 46-46 percent.
The Public Opinion Strategies five-state battleground survey exercise tells us that the national race is basically a toss-up. Clearly President Biden would have the advantage going into the race because he simply must again carry most of the states he previously won, but his edge is narrow.
It is also clear that the Republicans look to be in better shape with Gov. DeSantis at the top of the ticket than former President Trump, but the latter man is also in position to possibly win all of the aforementioned battleground domains.
Though the political attention will soon almost exclusively be focused on the Republican nomination battle, the general election contest will be just as competitive. The one point that can be confidently predicted is the five states tested above, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, along with Georgia, will become the Election 2024 focal points.