Apr 1, 2024 - News

Abortion, immigration and third-party votes will loom large in Arizona's 2024 presidential election

Three men sit in chairs on a stage in front of a red curtain.

From left, David Axelrod, Karl Rove and David Plouffe discuss the presidential election last Monday at ASU. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

Abortion, the border and the third-party vote are likely to dominate the 2024 presidential election, a bipartisan panel of political experts argued at ASU last week.

Why it matters: Those three issues are particularly visible in Arizona — a newly minted battleground state.

By the numbers: The election will come down to 2.5 million voters in five states, and Arizona is one of them, said David Plouffe, former President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign manager.

  • And the state, which President Biden won by 10,457 votes four years ago, could again be decided by 10,000 to 25,000 people, he predicted.
  • Arizona historically hasn't been a battleground state, he said, but "there's just a different feel in the air."

Driving the news: A trio of political gurus held a panel discussion last week as part of ASU's Democracy at Work series moderated by David Axelrod, who served as chief strategist for Obama's presidential campaigns and served in his administration.

  • Plouffe also worked in the Obama administration.
  • Karl Rove was chief strategist for former President George W. Bush's campaigns and served in the White House as well.

Here's what they predicted of the 2024 election:

1. Abortion

Abortion rights measures are likely to be on the ballot in several swing states, including Arizona, and that could drive up turnout for the Democrats, Plouffe said.

  • In a race where many people are unhappy with both Biden and Donald Trump, anything that gets those "double hater" voters to the polls could help, he said.

Reality check: Rove argued abortion will boost turnout somewhat, particularly among younger voters, but questioned the conventional wisdom that it'll do much to help Democrats.

  • He said there are "conflicting currents" on abortion, with two-thirds of voters opposing the overturning of Roe v. Wade but a similar percentage opposing second- or third-trimester abortions.

2. Border security and illegal immigration

These are always potent issues in Arizona elections, but the panel expects them to play a major role in this year's presidential contest nationwide.

Plouffe pointed to the dramatic spike the U.S. has seen in people illegally entering the country.

  • He said Biden needs to emphasize that Senate Republicans agreed to deal on border security legislation but Trump persuaded them to kill it.
  • "But you've got to understand it's a real problem that is affecting a lot of communities," he said.

Friction point: Rove said Trump made a mistake by scuttling the border deal in Congress, and would've been better off criticizing Biden and the Democrats for past inaction while vowing to enact policies like his "remain in Mexico" rule after he gets elected.

3. The third party vote

The third-party vote will be critical this year, Rove said. And in Arizona, where races are likely to be particularly tight, even a small number of votes for third-party candidates could make a difference.

Between the lines: Rove noted that Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen's vote total in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin in 2020 was greater than the number of votes Trump lost by.

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