Afford the un-affordable

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Republicans’ three-pronged strategy to win back the House

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President Joe Biden’s job approval is lower than that of Barack Obama or Donald Trump at this point in their presidencies. Each of these predecessors saw their party lose control of the House of Representatives during their second year in office.

Midterm elections usually go badly for the ruling party. His opponents are wronged, his supporters at worst disappointed or at best complacent. But Democrats face an additional challenge this year: a problematic environment that accentuates their weaknesses.

Inflation is unquestionably the biggest issue for American voters right now. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 50% of voters trusted Republicans more than Democrats to handle it, while only 31% trusted Democrats more. It’s a big advantage, and it’s no coincidence.

Inflation has long been dormant in the United States: ABC News had not conducted a poll of which party was most trusted to fix the problem since the administration of George HW Bush. Turns out, Republicans had about the same advantage 30 years ago.

So the Democrats may not be suffering just because inflation has been high on their watch or even because Biden (like the Federal Reserve and many economists) clearly underestimated how long it would stay high. The public might just be willing to trust Republicans on the issue, the same way they’re willing to trust Democrats on, say, Medicare.

Democrats are trying to build a reputation as inflation fighters — probably one of the main reasons Biden wrote an op-ed on the subject for the Wall Street Journal — but also want to get voters to give a thumbs up. higher priority to other issues that are more favorable to their party. Abortion and gun violence top the list.

The same ABC/Post poll found Democrats with a 10-point advantage on abortion, and many polls suggest they are in tune with public opinion in seeking tougher gun regulations. On both issues, however, intensity has often been on the conservative side.

Democrats are also eager to make former President Donald Trump a campaign stake and his shameful efforts to stay in power after losing the 2020 election. But that tactic failed last year in Virginia, where Trump is less popular than it is nationally. That seems unlikely to move voters further this fall.

Republicans, of course, can try to raise other issues as well. They have accused progressive prosecutors of increasing rates of violent crime and public disorder, and believe the recent recall of his district attorney in San Francisco illustrates the power of this problem. (The ABC/Post poll found Republicans had a 12-point advantage on crime.) They also laid the groundwork for attacking Biden’s immigration policies if conditions at the US-Mexico border visibly worsen. .

The issues Republicans want to highlight — inflation, crime and illegal immigration — all fit into a larger conservative story about government. Each of them involves a failure of the government at an essential task: to maintain the value of the currency, to suppress violence, to regulate the border.

They thereby reinforce public suspicion of government competence and, therefore, of ambitious proposals for government-led social change. They threaten the public’s sense of stability, order and control – the very things that conservative politicians specialize in providing, if they can avoid posing as radicals themselves.

Democrats have spent several months trying to hammer out a “Build Back Better” agenda with high-flying rhetoric about “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enact transformational policies that improve people’s lives.” With voters upset over gas pump prices, that kind of talk now seems laughable. So too, increasingly, is the prospect that Democrats will retain their majority in the US House of Representatives.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

• New York is much safer than small American cities: Justin Fox

• The Fed may suffer in the future if it fails to rein in inflation today: Ramesh Ponnuru

• Give me your educated migrant workers, not more relatives: Allison Schrager

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is the editor of National Review and a Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.

More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion

#Republicans #threepronged #strategy #win #House

Post expires at 8:31pm on Friday June 24th, 2022

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