Why Republicans Are Rising | Seattle weather
The Democrats had a golden summer. The Dobbs decision led to a surge in voter registration. Voters handed Democrats a string of sweet victories in unlikely places — Alaska and Kansas, and good news in upstate New York.
The moose did not survive the fall.
For the past month or so, there’s been a rumble across the country, and the news isn’t good for Team Blue. In the latest New York Times/Siena College poll, 49% of likely voters said they planned to vote for a Republican in Congress, and 45% said they planned to vote for a Democrat. Democrats held a one-point lead last month.
The survey contained stunning numbers. Democrats were counting on abortion rights to be a big deal, which won them widespread support among women voters. It doesn’t seem to work. Over the past month, the gender gap that favored Democrats has evaporated. In September, women who identified as independent voters favored the Democrats by 14 percentage points. Now they favor the Republicans by 18 points.
Republicans lead independents by 10 points.
To understand how parties think the campaign is going, look at where they are spending their money. As Henry Olsen noted in The Washington Post last week, Democrats are pouring money into House districts that should be safe — places Joe Biden won by double digits in 2020. Politico, for example, now rates races in California’s 13th congressional district. and Oregon’s 6th congressional district as draws. Two years ago, according to Politico, he won those areas by 11 and 14 points.
If Republicans are competitive in places like this, we’re likely looking at a red wave election that will allow them to easily take over the House and possibly the Senate.
So how should Democrats interpret these trends? There is a minimalist interpretation: mid-terms are usually difficult for the presidential party, and this one had to be doubly difficult because of global inflation.
I take a more average to maximalist point of view. I would say that recent events have revealed serious weaknesses in the party’s political approach:
It’s hard to win consistently if voters don’t trust you on the main issue. In a recent AP-NORC poll, voters trust Republicans to better manage the economy, 39% to 29%. Over the past two years, Democrats have attempted to build a compelling economic platform by making massive federal investments in technology, infrastructure and child welfare. But these policies do not seem to move voters. As Jim Tankersley of The New York Times reported, Democratic candidates in competitive Senate races barely talk about the $1.9 trillion US bailout package, which included direct payments to citizens.
I thought expanding the child tax credit would be massively popular and could help create a Democratic government majority. It turned out to be less popular than many expected, and there was little shouting when it expired. Perhaps voters have an inherent unease about income redistribution and federal spending.
Democrats have a crime problem. More than three-quarters of voters say violent crime is a major problem in the United States, according to a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden worked hard to give Democrats credibility on this issue. Many Democrats have moved away from the policies the party then adopted, often for good reasons. But they need to find another set of policies that will make the streets safer.
Democrats haven’t won back Latinos. In 2016, Donald Trump won 28% of Latin American votes. In 2020, it was 38%. This year, as William A. Galston noted in the Wall Street Journal, recent polls suggest Republicans will again win about 34% to 38% of the Latino vote. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis leads Democrat Charlie Crist by 16 points among Latinos likely to vote.
The January 6 committee and the MAGA warnings about fascism have not changed their minds. The work of this committee has been morally and legally important. But Trump’s approval rating is about where it was at the committee’s first public hearing. In the New York Times poll, Trump is roughly tied with Biden in a theoretical 2024 rematch. According to Politico, less than 2% of TV spending in the home races went to Jan. 6 ads. .
Voters may be overwhelmed by immediate concerns, such as food prices. It could be that voters have become so cynical and polarized that scandal and corruption no longer affect people much. This year, Herschel Walker set something of a record for the most scandals in a political season. He is still in a competitive race with Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia.
Republicans may just have a clearer narrative. The Trumpified GOP deserves to be a marginalized and disgraced force in American life. But I watched the campaign speeches of people like Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor of Arizona. GOP candidates tell a very clear class/culture/status war narrative in which common-sense Americans are assaulted by elite progressives who let the homeless take to the streets, teach sex education to children of 5 years, making fake news, running woke up corporations, opened the border and refused to do anything about fentanyl deaths and the kind of stuff that affects everyday people.
In other words, candidates like Lake weave together a dozen different issues into a cohesive story of class warfare. And it seems to work. At the end of July, she was 7 points behind her opponent. Now she’s up about half a point.