Presidential election results displayed in Times Square on Nov. 3,...

Presidential election results displayed in Times Square on Nov. 3, 2020. Credit: Bloomberg / Jeenah Moon

WASHINGTON — The 2024 presidential campaign season may be shaping up to be a rematch of the 2020 race between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump but the political landscape on Long Island for both candidates would be far from the same, political analysts said.

Biden, who announced his reelection bid on April 25, won Nassau County by nearly 10 percentage points over Trump in 2020.

But heading into 2024, Biden would confront a county where Republicans have taken the edge in two consecutive elections, helped significantly by voter concerns about crime.

Trump, 76, who announced his reelection bid in November and remains the GOP front-runner in national polls, beat Biden by only 232 votes in Suffolk County.

Political experts say in a 2024 race, Trump would face challenges in expanding his appeal among moderate swing voters, particularly the large number of women in the bloc.

They said such voters may be a tough audience for Trump given that his three U.S. Supreme Court appointees voted to overturn federal abortion protections last year, and that he still is embroiled in a swirl of contentious legal cases.

"The question that Biden and Republicans have is, what issues are going to drive the 2024 election?" said Christopher Malone, a political scientist at Farmingdale State College.

"If it's on guns and abortion, common wisdom tells you that this is something that Biden will do better on," Malone said. "If it's on crime, if it's on immigration, [Republican] voters will tend to come out." 

Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies, noted Long Island isn't viewed as a critical battleground in presidential elections because New York is such a Democratic state.

Nonetheless, Nassau and Suffolk are “home to hundreds of thousands of suburban swing voters who are a reliable bellwether for what is happening in competitive states where the suburbs are decisive,” Levy said.

Levy noted that in 2020, "Trump did poorly on Long Island and in many other suburbs, a huge turnaround from 2016 that arguably cost him reelection.”

Levy continued: "While Democrats on Long Island across the board fared poorly in 2021 and 2022 because of local issues, there's no reason to believe that [the Republican] party's recent successes bode well for [Trump] in 2020.” 

He was referring in part to the fact that, in 2021, Nassau Republicans won a number of high-profile county and town races. They included Bruce Blakeman's victory over Democratic incumbent Laura Curran for Nassau County executive, and Anne Donnelly’s win over Democrat Todd Kaminsky for Nassau district attorney.

In 2022, the GOP flipped two congressional seats long held by Nassau Democrats with the victories of Anthony D’Esposito and George Santos.

In a preview of the possible dynamics of a 2024 matchup, Biden chose suburban Westchester County last Wednesday to deliver a speech criticizing House Republicans for proposed spending cuts and to urge them to raise the federal debt ceiling.

That evening, Trump headlined a CNN town hall at which he insisted again that the 2020 presidential election was "rigged" and said he was inclined to pardon "a large portion" of defendants charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Gerald Benjamin, retired director of the Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives at SUNY New Paltz, said state Republicans last year “made the case that some outcomes are possible statewide that analysts before didn't think were possible.”

Noting Biden's choice of a suburb of New York City for his stump speech last week, Benjamin said, “I think that there's less confidence and less assumptions about the automaticity of the Democratic win as a consequence of the outcomes in New York [in 2022] … especially in suburban areas.”

Levy said whatever doubts swing voters may have about Biden, 80, including his age and his economic policies, “their dislike of Trump — in style and substance — seems to have hardened over his judges' anti-abortion rulings, his role in the Jan. 6 riot, his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election and other matters that rub moderates the wrong way.”

Malone said while Trump repeatedly has shown he can motivate his supporters, to win the suburbs he will need to expand beyond his base and generate “enthusiasm” among other critical swing blocks like suburban women.

“There's not a lot of room for growth in terms of enthusiasm,” Malone said. “So yes, he will turn out his base on Long Island, and even across other suburban areas, but just the counterweight to that is that there will be independents and ‘never Trumper’ Republicans … and also really enthusiastic Democrats who will come out to vote against him. So I think at best it's a wash on the enthusiasm issue, but at worst, I think it actually hurts the Republicans.”

Former Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, who represented New York's 3rd Congressional District and advised Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, said voting dynamics on Long Island change with each election cycle because the region remains a “political pendulum” that swings back and forth between “left of center and right of center.”

Israel argued: “You cannot judge the next election on Long Island, based on the most recent one, that's a recipe for getting it wrong. The climate that existed in 2020 changed in 2022 and the climate that existed in 2022 is going to change again in 2024. The only thing that's consistent is that Long Islanders are quintessential moderate suburban voters who reject extremism.”

Israel, director of Cornell University's nonpartisan Institute of Politics and Global Affairs, said it is “too early to say with any precision” how Long Island will lean in 2024 because most swing voters, those who are “independent, and less partisan,” tend not to tune into political messaging “until September, and October of the election year.”

“If you’re an independent, if you’re a moderate — you’re a swing voter until the very end,” Israel said. “That's why it is so hard to forecast where the presidential election will go, because we don't yet know what the climate will be, and which messages will land with those late-breaking independent voters.”

In Nassau, national attention could be focused next year on races in two congressional districts held by first-time GOP lawmakers — the 3rd District, represented by Rep. George Santos, who was charged in a federal criminal case last week, and the Fourth, represented by Rep. Anthony D'Esposito of Island Park.

Nassau GOP chairman Joe Cairo acknowledged Democrats may be “motivated” to turn out in higher numbers to reclaim those two congressional seats, which were held by Democrats for decades.

But Cairo said Republicans also will be animated to turn out and keep those seats in their column regardless of who is at the top of the presidential ticket.

Cairo said he believes even in a presidential race, local issues such as crime and the recent failed push by Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul to mandate the construction of more housing statewide will be on voters' minds.

“Based on the past two years, and based upon where we're at now, I think the momentum is with us,” Cairo said. “People want to have local zoning. They want to have local government be able to make decisions on the village, town or county level … This housing plan … people don’t want that. And so I think the issues are with us.”

Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs, also the New York State party chairman, said he believes the issue of statewide bail reform that helped Republicans over the past two years will be less of a motivating factor because Hochul’s 2023-24 state budget gives judges more discretion in determining which defendants are released on bail.

Bail reform legislation passed by the Democrat-controlled New York State Legislature in 2019 ended cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.

Proponents said the reforms were needed because existing bail requirements unfairly targeted low-income individuals and people of color who could not afford to pay to get out of jail before trial. Opponents argued the reforms would lead to the release of repeat offenders.

Jacobs said that in 2024 he expects Republicans will “try to find something to scare the public with or make them angry about, and we’ll deal with it.”

WASHINGTON — The 2024 presidential campaign season may be shaping up to be a rematch of the 2020 race between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump but the political landscape on Long Island for both candidates would be far from the same, political analysts said.

Biden, who announced his reelection bid on April 25, won Nassau County by nearly 10 percentage points over Trump in 2020.

But heading into 2024, Biden would confront a county where Republicans have taken the edge in two consecutive elections, helped significantly by voter concerns about crime.

Trump, 76, who announced his reelection bid in November and remains the GOP front-runner in national polls, beat Biden by only 232 votes in Suffolk County.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • In a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump in 2024, both would face a different political landscape on Long Island compared with 2020, experts say.
  • Biden, who beat Trump by nearly 10 percentage points in Nassau in 2020, would confront a county where Republicans have taken the edge in two consecutive elections, helped by voter concerns about crime.
  • In Suffolk, Trump may face challenges in winning over moderate voters after his three nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Political experts say in a 2024 race, Trump would face challenges in expanding his appeal among moderate swing voters, particularly the large number of women in the bloc.

They said such voters may be a tough audience for Trump given that his three U.S. Supreme Court appointees voted to overturn federal abortion protections last year, and that he still is embroiled in a swirl of contentious legal cases.

"The question that Biden and Republicans have is, what issues are going to drive the 2024 election?" said Christopher Malone, a political scientist at Farmingdale State College.

"If it's on guns and abortion, common wisdom tells you that this is something that Biden will do better on," Malone said. "If it's on crime, if it's on immigration, [Republican] voters will tend to come out." 

Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies, noted Long Island isn't viewed as a critical battleground in presidential elections because New York is such a Democratic state.

Nonetheless, Nassau and Suffolk are “home to hundreds of thousands of suburban swing voters who are a reliable bellwether for what is happening in competitive states where the suburbs are decisive,” Levy said.

Levy noted that in 2020, "Trump did poorly on Long Island and in many other suburbs, a huge turnaround from 2016 that arguably cost him reelection.”

Levy continued: "While Democrats on Long Island across the board fared poorly in 2021 and 2022 because of local issues, there's no reason to believe that [the Republican] party's recent successes bode well for [Trump] in 2020.” 

He was referring in part to the fact that, in 2021, Nassau Republicans won a number of high-profile county and town races. They included Bruce Blakeman's victory over Democratic incumbent Laura Curran for Nassau County executive, and Anne Donnelly’s win over Democrat Todd Kaminsky for Nassau district attorney.

In 2022, the GOP flipped two congressional seats long held by Nassau Democrats with the victories of Anthony D’Esposito and George Santos.

In a preview of the possible dynamics of a 2024 matchup, Biden chose suburban Westchester County last Wednesday to deliver a speech criticizing House Republicans for proposed spending cuts and to urge them to raise the federal debt ceiling.

That evening, Trump headlined a CNN town hall at which he insisted again that the 2020 presidential election was "rigged" and said he was inclined to pardon "a large portion" of defendants charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Gerald Benjamin, retired director of the Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives at SUNY New Paltz, said state Republicans last year “made the case that some outcomes are possible statewide that analysts before didn't think were possible.”

Noting Biden's choice of a suburb of New York City for his stump speech last week, Benjamin said, “I think that there's less confidence and less assumptions about the automaticity of the Democratic win as a consequence of the outcomes in New York [in 2022] … especially in suburban areas.”

Levy said whatever doubts swing voters may have about Biden, 80, including his age and his economic policies, “their dislike of Trump — in style and substance — seems to have hardened over his judges' anti-abortion rulings, his role in the Jan. 6 riot, his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election and other matters that rub moderates the wrong way.”

Malone said while Trump repeatedly has shown he can motivate his supporters, to win the suburbs he will need to expand beyond his base and generate “enthusiasm” among other critical swing blocks like suburban women.

“There's not a lot of room for growth in terms of enthusiasm,” Malone said. “So yes, he will turn out his base on Long Island, and even across other suburban areas, but just the counterweight to that is that there will be independents and ‘never Trumper’ Republicans … and also really enthusiastic Democrats who will come out to vote against him. So I think at best it's a wash on the enthusiasm issue, but at worst, I think it actually hurts the Republicans.”

Former Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, who represented New York's 3rd Congressional District and advised Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, said voting dynamics on Long Island change with each election cycle because the region remains a “political pendulum” that swings back and forth between “left of center and right of center.”

Republican gains on Long Island in 2021

Israel argued: “You cannot judge the next election on Long Island, based on the most recent one, that's a recipe for getting it wrong. The climate that existed in 2020 changed in 2022 and the climate that existed in 2022 is going to change again in 2024. The only thing that's consistent is that Long Islanders are quintessential moderate suburban voters who reject extremism.”

Israel, director of Cornell University's nonpartisan Institute of Politics and Global Affairs, said it is “too early to say with any precision” how Long Island will lean in 2024 because most swing voters, those who are “independent, and less partisan,” tend not to tune into political messaging “until September, and October of the election year.”

“If you’re an independent, if you’re a moderate — you’re a swing voter until the very end,” Israel said. “That's why it is so hard to forecast where the presidential election will go, because we don't yet know what the climate will be, and which messages will land with those late-breaking independent voters.”

In Nassau, national attention could be focused next year on races in two congressional districts held by first-time GOP lawmakers — the 3rd District, represented by Rep. George Santos, who was charged in a federal criminal case last week, and the Fourth, represented by Rep. Anthony D'Esposito of Island Park.

Nassau GOP chairman Joe Cairo acknowledged Democrats may be “motivated” to turn out in higher numbers to reclaim those two congressional seats, which were held by Democrats for decades.

But Cairo said Republicans also will be animated to turn out and keep those seats in their column regardless of who is at the top of the presidential ticket.

Cairo said he believes even in a presidential race, local issues such as crime and the recent failed push by Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul to mandate the construction of more housing statewide will be on voters' minds.

“Based on the past two years, and based upon where we're at now, I think the momentum is with us,” Cairo said. “People want to have local zoning. They want to have local government be able to make decisions on the village, town or county level … This housing plan … people don’t want that. And so I think the issues are with us.”

Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs, also the New York State party chairman, said he believes the issue of statewide bail reform that helped Republicans over the past two years will be less of a motivating factor because Hochul’s 2023-24 state budget gives judges more discretion in determining which defendants are released on bail.

Bail reform legislation passed by the Democrat-controlled New York State Legislature in 2019 ended cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.

Proponents said the reforms were needed because existing bail requirements unfairly targeted low-income individuals and people of color who could not afford to pay to get out of jail before trial. Opponents argued the reforms would lead to the release of repeat offenders.

Jacobs said that in 2024 he expects Republicans will “try to find something to scare the public with or make them angry about, and we’ll deal with it.”

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