US elections explainer - when are the elections and who is running for president in 2024?

Wednesday 4 October 2023

The US election this year is set to be one like no other in modern political history, as the same two men will face off for the second cycle in a row.

Leading the field of Republican presidential candidates is former President Donald Trump, who faces a battery of federal and state criminal charges related to his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

If Trump captures the Republican nomination and wins the general election, he will become the first president in 130 years to win the White House after sitting out a four-year term, after Grover Cleveland.

Biden, the incumbent president, is the presumptive Democratic nominee. He will be 81 when the election is held in November 2024, making him the oldest American to win a presidential election should he secure a second term.

With the race for the next president of the United States of America well under-way, TalkTV has all the information you need to keep up with the fast-paced and complicated election system.

Below is a handy explainer for the process of America choosing the president, and a run down of some of the top contenders.

How the election works

Primary season for the candidates begins in late January, and is an opportunity for voters in an election to select candidates to run for public office.

They may be closed (partisan), allowing only declared party members to vote, or open (nonpartisan), meaning all voters choose which party’s primary they wish to vote in without having to declare any party affiliation.

Most US states use a direct primary, which works as a preliminary election where voters can decide the party’s candidates.

An indirect primary is where voters elect delegates who choose the party’s candidates at a nominating convention.

Republicans will hold their first nominating contest in January with the Iowa caucuses. New Hampshire will hold a more traditional presidential primary shortly thereafter, followed by Nevada, South Carolina and Michigan.

Democrats plan to hold their first primary in South Carolina in February, with Biden not expected to face a serious challenger.

Then comes Super Tuesday, which falls on March 5th this year, and it is the closest thing the US has to primary for the whole country.

It is when the greatest number of states hold primaries and approximately a third of all delegates to the presidential nominating conventions can be won solely on Super Tuesday.

These nominating conventions are when the Republicans and Democrats formally select their party’s next presidential nominee.

The Republican National Convention will take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 15 to 18 July followed by its Democratic counterpart in Chicago, Illinois, from 19 to 22 August.

After November’s vote, Congress will formally certify the results on 6 January 2025 and the new president will be inaugurated two weeks later on 20 January.

Republican candidates

Trump, 77, is dominating a large field of candidates who have largely avoided criticizing him for his actions related to the 2020 election for fear of alienating his base of diehard supporters.

Many of those supporters believe Trump's false claims that the election was stolen from him.

His Republican rivals, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, instead have argued that Trump’s legal woes will hamstring him in a general-election fight against Biden.

Two notable exceptions are Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who have both condemned Trump’s attempts to subvert the 2020 election outcome.

Former President Donald Trump during the second day of his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court / Getty Images

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, a newcomer to politics, is running as an inheritor of Trump’s populist, America First agenda, one that is wary of an expansive federal government, corporate power and international alliances.

DeSantis was once viewed as the most likely candidate to deny Trump the nomination, but his campaign has sputtered since launching in May despite having a big war chest. He risks falling into the rest of the pack behind Trump.

Opinion polls show that Trump is largely tied with Biden in head-to-head matchups, with voters concerned about Biden's age and his handling of the economy despite job growth, infrastructure investment and a slow easing of inflation after last year's peak.

Trump faces indictments in four cases in federal and state courts for his efforts to undermine the 2020 election, his mishandling of classified documents and his involvement in a “hush money” scheme involving a porn star.

He has maintained his innocence and argued that he is the victim of politically motivated prosecutions, an assertion the Biden administration denies.

The legal calendars for those cases pose obstacles for Trump's ability to campaign.

Democrat candidates

While voters may not be enthusiastic, Democratic leaders are backing Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., scion of the storied political family, who has pushed anti-vaccine and anti-COVID-19 safety views, is a long-shot challenger, although some media reports say he is planning to drop his challenge and launch an independent bid.

Self-help author and speaker Marianne Williamson is another dark-horse candidate.

Biden's pitch for a second four-year term rests on his stewardship of the economy as it has emerged from the COVID pandemic, and what he calls the "battle for the soul of America," a fight against Trump-aligned Republicans.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at an event / (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Under Biden, unemployment dropped to generational lows, gross domestic product (GDP) grew faster than expected and wages have risen.

However, inflation spiked last year, and, while it has eased in recent months, voters remain concerned about the high price of staples such as food, fuel, cars and housing.

Should Trump be the Republican nominee, much of Biden's campaign is likely to focus on warning voters that Trump poses a mortal threat to American democracy.

The lack of enthusiasm among voters for a Biden-Trump rematch suggests a third-party challenger could garner some support or push more Americans to sit out the election. A significant third-party candidate has yet to emerge, however.

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