American Elections 2024: Political Discussions and Global Consequences

In April 2024, at the invitation of the Ukrainian embassy, as well as out of my own interest, I attended a conference on the 2024 US elections, the full theme of which was: “What’s in the cards: The 2024 US Presidential Election”. It was hosted by two distinguished guests, Professor Mark Rosell and Dr. Marcus Pindur. The event covered a wide range of topics, from the history of the US presidential election to predictions about the future impact of the president-elect on the global situation, with a particular focus on Ukraine, the Gaza Strip and many other relevant topics.

During my 8-week internship at the Ukrainian embassy, I attended several conferences. One of them was about the US elections. It’s no secret that the outcome of U.S. elections directly affects the situation in Ukraine. Therefore, it was important to gain insights from a US expert on how American politicians and citizens perceive the global situation and how it could change depending on who becomes the 47th president of the United States.

The US presidential election takes place on November 5, 2024. It is still unclear who will run for president. Too many factors can influence the final decision. However, the old opponents – the current US President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump – have the best chance of meeting in a political battle.

How does the voting system work in the US?

The US president is elected every 4 years. The president can be re-elected only once, meaning that he/she can lead the country for a maximum of 8 years. However, it is not only the election day in November that is decisive for the election of the US President, but the entire election year. It can be roughly divided into pre-elections and election campaign. 

In the pre-elections, the party’s candidate is first determined internally. They take place at the beginning of the election year. The untapped “swing states” (states that are not consistent in their voting behaviour – in other words, are those in which it is never clear in advance whether the Democratic or Republican candidate will win) are particularly important in the election campaign. 

The voters do not vote directly for the presidential candidate, but for electors. There are a total of 538 electors. The candidate who wins more electoral votes in the respective state receives all the votes in that state. Whoever ends up with the majority of the 538 electors wins the election.

President of the Swing State? 

First of all, Professor Mark Rozell, Dean of the School of Policy and Management at George Mason University and author of numerous books on American government and politics, shared insights on how presidential elections in the US often focus on so-called “swing states” that determine the election outcome. In the intricate dance of American presidential election, attention is invariably focused on 5-10 key „swing states“, where the struggle for votes reaches its climax. The presidential race unfolds as a series of local confrontations, in which each swing state becomes extremely important in the battle for the magic number of 270 votes. While solid red and solid blue states tend to receive less attention from candidates, the fate of the 2024 elections depends on the outcome of seven key swing states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Looking back at the 2020 contest, it is worth noting that Biden had the smallest advantage in Georgia and Trump in North Carolina, which underscores the key role of these states in determining the outcome of the presidential race.

A third candidate in 2024?

As the spectre of another presidential election grows ever more haunting, talk of a potential third-party “spoiler” candidate has begun to emerge, initiated by the group „No Labels“. The idea behind this proposal is simple: with dissatisfaction with both Biden and Trump growing among a large portion of the electorate, why not present an alternative? The historical example of third-party candidates leaving an unforgettable mark on past elections serves as a warning. In 1992, the formidable independent candidate Ross Perot won a staggering 19% of the vote, which many believe turned the election in Bill Clinton’s favour. Similarly, the Green Party’s Ralph Nader in 2000 won the decisive vote in Florida, which ultimately tipped the state and the presidency in favour of George W. Bush. Even in 2016, Jill Stein’s modest share of the vote could have influenced the outcome in crucial states, potentially tipping the scales in Trump’s favour. This could highlight the potential impact of a third party on an already unstable political landscape.

von links nach rechts: Dr. Marcus Pindur, Professor Mark Rosell and the conference moderator

The prospects for 2024.

The political landscape in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election reflects nuanced changes in voter demographics and party dynamics. The Republicans continue to dominate among white voters, while the Democrats operate as a coalition representing various minority groups. In particular, from 2016 to 2020, former President Trump made significant gains among traditionally Democratic-leaning demographic groups such as Latinos, Asians, and black people. Moreover, there are signs of a conservative drift among the cohort that initially propelled Obama to victory in 2008 and 2012. However, both major candidates face challenges: President Biden is struggling with declining popularity, exacerbated by concerns about his age and limited ability to campaign in 2020. Conversely, Trump’s polarising image and ongoing legal checks are creating obstacles to his electoral chances. In this context, the seven swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are becoming key battlegrounds. In addition, local issues, such as fluctuating gasoline prices, highlight the importance of regional issues in shaping voter sentiment and election outcomes.

How did Biden win in 2020?

The 2020 presidential election marked a significant change in electoral dynamics: Joe Biden won two Upper Midwestern states that Hillary Clinton had previously lost in 2016, and he also won Georgia and Arizona in tightly contested races. Despite these victories, the 2016 and 2020 Electoral College maps largely mirrored each other, highlighting the limited mobility of states in determining electoral outcomes. The electoral college maps (see: for 2016 and 2020 show considerable similarity, indicating that the same states voted basically the same way in both elections. This pattern underscores the stability of voter behaviour at the state level and the limited changes in the political landscape over the two election cycles. The stability of the results across states reflects deep-seated political divisions and shows a relatively fixed electoral map, with only a few swing states determining the final outcome.

Biden’s success can be partly attributed to his ability to appeal to white working-class voters in critical states. This strategy allowed Biden to expand his electoral coalition and win decisive victories in key swing states.

The foreign policy of Biden or Trump: the separation of words from actions and public opinion on the matter.

Significant attention at the conference was devoted to foreign policy, particularly relations with Ukraine. It was noted that the positions of Biden and Trump on Ukraine differ. During his campaign, Biden declared support for Ukraine, while Trump made bombastic statements about NATO and did not criticize Putin. Even before he was sworn in as US president in January 2017, he called the transatlantic alliance „obsolete“. At a campaign event in South Carolina in February 2024, he encouraged Russia to „do whatever the hell it wants.“ So, basically, he called on a enemy country to attack a NATO ally if it does not spend enough on its military. Professor Rozell also noted that regardless of who becomes the president of the United States after January 2025, it is likely that they will call on Ukraine to agree to a negotiated settlement to end the conflict.

Public opinion polls showed that in 2024, an increased percentage of Americans considered foreign policy important, and that the majority favored Biden on issues related to Ukraine. However, Dr. Marcus Pindur emphasized that a Trump victory could be a strategic catastrophe for the US, as his policies could embolden Putin to take dangerous actions not only in Europe but also in the US. He called on Europe to strengthen its own forces to be independent from the US, especially if Trump is re-elected president.

The Israeli-Palestinian issue has divided Democrats and mobilized the younger generation of Americans. After Hamas’s attack on October 7, Biden supported Israel and even traveled there to meet with the military cabinet. However, following Israel’s blockade of humanitarian supplies to Gaza and the rising number of Palestinian civilian casualties, even members of his own party have criticized his stance on the war.

This stance may lead to Biden losing voter support, though it doesn’t necessarily mean those voters will choose Trump. Trump also supported Netanyahu’s policies during his presidency, and the Republican Party continues to back Israel despite the official count of over 34,000 Palestinian deaths. The real danger for Biden lies in the possibility that many voters in these districts might simply stay home on election day in November as a form of protest. Low voter turnout could very well tip the electoral battle in Trump’s favor in „swing states“.

In general, the conference served as an important forum for discussing key aspects of the upcoming presidential elections in the US and their impact on the political situation in the country but also outside of it.