Will voters go blue or red? The economy may hold the key

A string of bad economic news could reverse trends that voters appeared to be leaning toward Democrats in their bid to retain power in the House and Senate this fall. However, it remains to be seen whether Republicans, given their own lack of a coherent message, can capitalize on voter dissatisfaction with the economy.

Democrats gained confidence in their chances of scoring an unlikely victory this November after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade, which revived Democratic activists and seemed to lift Democratic candidates in the polls. But the steady barrage of bad economic news has picked up again in recent weeks, and polls show Republicans have a clear advantage over Democrats when it comes to who voters trust on the economy.

In the past week, voters have been inundated with bad economic news. Food prices are rising as inflation woes continue, housing prices are falling and the stock market just had one of its worst weeks in an already bad year, contributing to a record decline in US household wealth.

In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired over the weekend, President Joe Biden showed how difficult it is for Democrats to respond to criticism on economic issues. When asked about high inflation and food bills, Biden responded by downplaying the problem.

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“Well, let’s put that in perspective first,” he said. “(The) inflation rate has increased by just an inch month-on-month. Hardly.” Correspondent Scott Pelley replied, “This is the highest rate of inflation, Mr. President, in 40 years.”

Regarding the possibility of a recession, Biden said he would avert it by “growing the economy.”

But economist Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said a recession is still a “very real” possibility in the coming months, partly because of Democratic politics. Even as it became clear that inflation was a growing problem, Democrats continued to pour money into the economy, both through their legislative agenda and through Biden’s executive actions, including his recent move to allocate billions of dollars in student loans.

“The more the President and Congress enact policies that actually make inflation worse, the harder we’re going to need the Federal Reserve to curb inflation,” Riedl said.

The more the Fed hikes rates to cool inflation, the more likely it is that the economy will slide into a recession, which could disadvantage Democrats not only in this year’s midterms but also in the 2024 presidential election, Riedl continued.

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But for Republicans to fully capitalize on runaway inflation, they would have to have their own economic agenda, and so far their strategy seems to be to rely on the bad economy to bog down the Democrats rather than their own solutions Find. he said.

Part of the problem is that the party’s base has shifted on economic issues in recent years, muddying the waters not only for voters but also for elected officials. Riedl was working on a deficit-reduction plan for Utah Senator Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, but the days when Republicans worried about the deficit seem long gone, he said. Measures that could help fight inflation — like lower tariffs and reduced regulations — seem to have lost support from Republican lawmakers or the grassroots.

Despite their lack of consensus on economic issues, Republicans still seem to be helping keep the economy at the forefront of voters’ minds. But the main issue keeping Republicans from focusing on the economy is abortion — and they have members of their own party to thank for keeping the issue at the forefront.

Many Republicans recently expressed frustration with Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., after he published legislation that would ban most abortions in the US after 15 weeks. Democrats immediately seized on the law, calling it a “national ban on abortion.”

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Graham’s bill is consistent with international abortion laws and more in line with what many US voters say they support on the issue, but many in the party see the issue as a losing proposition for them and want to keep abortion out of the news altogether .

Some Republican candidates, like Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, have attempted to focus on the abortion issue by portraying their Democratic opponents as extreme on the issue. Other Republicans just want the problem to go away. There are other concerns weighing on voters this year — like high crime and former President Donald Trump’s continued presence in the news — but inflation and the economy consistently top voters in polls.

With just a few weeks until early voting begins, it remains to be seen whether Republicans can keep voters’ focus on the economy as they head to the polls, or whether the lack of a unified message will keep them from winning in November.

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