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Forecast 2024: The White House 

Mishpacha’s experts predict the year ahead

Race to the Top

Anybody who says he knows with certainty who will win the 2024 presidential election must be new to American politics. There are too many variables, too many things that can shift decisively.

But I believe there are six factors that will be pivotal. James A. Baker III, now the oldest living former secretary of state after the death of Henry Kissinger, saw these factors at work from his vantagepoint in four presidential elections. He managed the campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush; and he served as a senior advisor to George W. Bush in 2000. Baker saw winners, losers, decisive victories, and complete collapses. Here are six factors that were instrumental in those races.


The Economy, Stupid

An incumbent’s reelection chances will be helped by a booming economy. He will be perceived as a wise steward of prosperity who fattens everyone’s pocketbooks.

James Baker was well aware of this when he served as President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff. He once met with Paul Volcker, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, in the leadup to Reagan’s 1984 reelection. The economy was showing signs of picking up, but Volcker, concerned about inflation, was considering raising interest rates, which would have slowed the economy.

Baker admonished Volcker, “The president is ordering you not to raise interest rates before the election.”

Unsure how to respond to this unusual request, Volcker simply walked out of the meeting.

Baker’s willingness to break norms paid off: the strong economy helped Reagan win one of the greatest reelection margins in history.

The reverse was true when Baker watched his close friend George H.W. Bush fail on the economic front during his 1990 campaign. After Bush promised he wouldn’t raise taxes with the fateful phrase “Read my lips,” he ultimately backtracked, which triggered a public fight with other Republicans. Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist James Carville famously capitalized on this by reminding his staff, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Bottom Line for 2024

The economy has begun to show some tentative signs of strength. If it holds up, it will help Biden. If the market crashes or inflation lingers, it will help the GOP challenger.


War and Peace

American voters judge their presidents’ performance in both war and peace. James Baker was secretary of state when George H.W. Bush launched Operation Desert Storm early in his term. America’s victory drove Bush’s approval ratings to a record 89%. His reelection chances were only undone because the bad economy erased voters’ warm memories of the Gulf war.

Joe Biden likewise got a boost to his approval ratings for how he initially handled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But he’s getting scored in his ratings now for how he’s managing the war against Hamas.

Bottom Line for 2024

If Israel and Ukraine win their wars soon enough, it could provide a serious boost to Biden. Lack of clear resolution to these conflicts could dampen his prospects.


Third-Party Viability

When Baker ran Bush’s 1992 reelection campaign, one of his challenges was trying to figure out how serious Ross Perot was. The campaign vacillated between taking him seriously and not. Could you blame them? Perot himself vacillated; he initially withdrew from the race in July, and then came back in October. Perot was the spoiler in the general election, winning 18.9% of the popular vote. Could Baker have done more to persuade Perot not to run? Should they have taken the threat more seriously?

Bottom Line for 2024

I would take Robert F. Kennedy Jr. seriously no matter which party I’m in. He may have no chance to win, but his ability to siphon away votes from the right and left should concern both parties.


Supreme Court

George W. Bush’s victory in 2000 came about through direct intervention from the US Supreme Court. Election Night that year was a nail-biter, with Bush and Democrat Al Gore in a virtual deadlock as votes in Florida were being counted. The final tally in Florida showed Bush eking out a victory so razor-thin that state law required a recount.

Two former secretaries of state were deployed to Florida: Democrat Warren Christopher and Republican James Baker. When the two first met, Christopher expected to negotiate over the contested ballots. Baker stated in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t willing to negotiate and that Bush had won the election. That sent the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled in Bush’s favor, and he won the presidency.

Bottom Line for 2024

Trump was just disqualified from the Colorado GOP primary ballot by that state’s Supreme Court. Trump’s team will no doubt take this fight to the US Supreme Court. This is an area of serious concern for Republicans.



Baker watched Gerald Ford drop Vice President Nelson Rockefeller from his reelection ticket, replacing him with Senator Bob Dole, to appease conservatives. Baker watched Bush struggle with turnover in the chief of staff position, and ultimately had to step into the role himself toward the end of Bush’s term. Reagan, on the other hand, kept Baker as chief of staff for close to five years. It is critical for an elected official to maintain stability at the top level. Changes to key people can spell trouble.

Bottom Line for 2024

Biden is on his second chief of staff. Trump and DeSantis have both made numerous changes to their campaign structures. Neither side has an edge on stability, but as the campaign tightens up, the team that stays together is more likely to win.


The Jewish Community

Baker is most famous in our community for what Mayor Ed Koch claimed he said, “When Baker was criticized recently at a meeting of high level White House advisers for his belligerent attitude toward Israel, he responded, (expletive) em. They didn’t vote for us.” Baker and the White House all denied the charge, but it stuck with the community. The community at the time felt that Baker’s actions were unfavorable toward Israel and his reported remarks reinforced his actions and indifference of both the pro-Israel community and the larger Jewish community. After this comment, many were left wondering, did our vote impact how the Bush administration behaved on Israel? Could we have been more active and vocal to push back against many of Baker’s lousy Middle East policies?

I’ve heard it so many times from so many community members regarding their feelings about subsequent administrations. Do they value our vote? Do they appreciate it and fight for us? Some seem to, others not. But the power of our vote and our community’s voice will be talked about and critical to this race.

Bottom Line for 2024

Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Michigan are all swing states with large Jewish populations. Our community’s voice matters and both campaigns will be trying to get our vote. I have never seen the community so organized, and I believe the turnout will move the needle.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 992)

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