• Thu. May 30th, 2024

The knock-on effect of the gubernatorial elections on the 2024 Presidential race

ByWill Thies

Nov 24, 2023
Governor Andy Beshear standing at an ROTC ceremony, talking to some army soldiers

Earlier this month, three gubernatorial elections were held in Southern states of the United States. One in particular stood out: Democratic Governor Andy Beshear winning gubernatorial re-election in the state of Kentucky. As one of the few elections taking place before the 2024 presidential elections, what can this election tell us about potential Democratic strategy in the presidential elections?

Andy Beshear, Kentucky’s incumbent Democratic governor, comfortably defeated Donald Trump endorsed Attorney General Daniel Cameron in a 52.5% to 47.5% victory. This result may come as a surprise given Trump’s strong electoral 2020 electoral performance in Kentucky, where he won 62% percent of votes compared to Biden’s 36%. Kentucky is also the home state to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and has traditionally elected Republicans. How did Beshear win, and can the Democrats learn any lessons from his victory?

Beshear campaigned on abortion, hard. Currently, Kentucky only protects a woman’s right to an abortion when giving birth might threaten their life or cause a disability. Notably, Kentucky does not legally protect the right to an abortion in cases of rape or incest. During debates and speeches, Beshear repeatedly attacked opponent Daniel Cameron for his support of the current law, stating “my opponent’s position would give a rapist more rights than their victim”. While Cameron did not take a strong stance on the specific issue, his failure to adopt a more moderate position on abortion may have been pivotal in his electoral defeat.

Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which terminated federal legal protections around abortions, debate around abortion has been thrust back to the center of American politics. While abortion is often considered a partisan issue, a significant majority of Americans still broadly support a woman’s right to choose. According to a Pew poll, 61% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances. Republicans are surprisingly split on the issue. Nearly 40% of Republicans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Beyond Beshear’s victory in Kentucky, pro-abortion Democratic victories in the state legislatures of Ohio and Virginia may represent a larger pivot towards pro-abortion campaigning for Democratic candidates. 

While likely Republican Party nominee Donald Trump avoids taking a specific position on abortion himself, his three appointed Supreme Court justices played a key role in reversing Roe v. Wade in 2022. Trump’s policy on abortion (or lack thereof) will likely influence the success of his presidential campaign. A more aggressive stance, like that of Daniel Cameron may be a losing formula when support for abortions remains high. 

Despite record-low unemployment rates and cooling inflation, concerns over post-pandemic inflation continue to cast a shadow on Biden’s presidential campaign. A strong stance on abortion could be pivotal for Joe Biden’s 2024 presidential campaign, serving as a compelling reason to vote for the incumbent when many Americans seem unconvinced by his economic track record.

U.S. Army Cadet Command Change of Command Ceremony | 2021” by U.S. Army ROTC is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.