Will Trump help or hinder down-ballot candidates in 2024?

  • Republicans won key swing districts in 2016 with Donald Trump atop the ballot
  • In 2020, Democrats flipped the majority of those districts
  • Early polling shows DeSantis' coattails performing better than Trump's

(NewsNation) — As the GOP primary field continues to grow, former President Donald Trump continues to outpace other candidates. If he emerges as the front-runner, past voting patterns suggest there may be concerns for down-ballot Republicans.

While Trump has consistently done well with the Republican Party’s base, he hasn’t done so well when it comes to moderates and swing voters. Those groups were critical when it came to electing President Joe Biden in 2020 and will be essential if Republicans want to win back the White House in 2024.

In tests using a generic ballot, those with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the top of the ticket performed better than those with Trump leading the ticket.

Generic ballot polls are designed to test whether voters are more or less likely to support a specific party. Many voters are straight-ticket voters: They will select their preferred party for all races. Other times, voters choose candidates with what’s called a split ticket, for example voting for a Democrat for president but choosing Republicans for local races.

So-called down-ballot races range from congressional candidates to local officials such as sheriffs or school board members. Because some of those smaller races tend to involve lesser-known candidates, many voters simply opt for their preferred party.

In the generic ballot testing, the presidential candidate changed how voters responded when it came to smaller races. When Trump was at the top of the ballot, fewer voters were inclined to caset a ballots for other Republican candidates.

For Republicans, that means the presidential nominee could influence a lot more than who is in the White House. Cook Political Report looked at the results from 23 key swing districts between 2016 and 2022 to see how Trump influenced voters. This is what they found.


  • Voters in the 23 districts where Trump lost still voted for Republicans in other races.
  • One possible reason is moderate Republicans were turned off by Trump’s unorthodox approach to governing.
  • Another theory is voters expected Hillary Clinton to win and were hoping to get a Republican majority in Congress to counter the Democratic White House.


  • Democrats flipped all but two of those districts in the 2018 midterm election.
  • Analysts suggest that means voters weren’t making a distinction between Trump and other Republican candidates.


  • Twenty-one of the 23 districts where Trump lost in 2016 voted for President Joe Biden.
  • Fifteen of those districts also voted Democratic in congressional races.
  • Republicans mainly saw gains in districts where Trump won.


  • Republicans carried 18 of the districts that had voted for Biden.
  • That gave the GOP a much narrower majority than predicted.
  • Republicans backed by Trump did much more poorly than anticipated.

In order to win the White House back in 2024, Republicans will need to flip some districts that voted for Biden in 2020. After the predicted red wave failed to appear in the 2022 midterms, some called for a change in leadership.


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