MILFORD, NH — Democrats and Republicans agree midterm elections will only turn on a few key issues — but they disagree about what will happen.
Democrats believe they can win at least some of the last-round fights over abortion rights and former President Trump. Republicans prefer to fight it out over inflation and crime. And both sides want to claim victory in the immigration debate.
If polls are any indication, all of these categories – a mix of economics, culture, and personality politics – will help determine control of Congress in November.
Here are five issues that can shape the outcome of an election:
Republicans believe inflation will be the top issue for voters as they head to the ballot box and believe what they call President Biden’s economy gives them the edge.
They see Biden’s lackluster poll numbers and exorbitant prices as a sign that they can win if they convince voters to trust Republicans to improve their financial situation.
While Biden’s standing has recently improved, many Americans are still grappling with higher costs for basic daily needs, a reality that personally worries Democrats who see their opposition making progress.
Inflation has consistently been a major problem for Americans. A Reuters-Ipsos . poll released Wednesday found that 30 percent called it their top concern, and the ruling party was almost always blamed for economic woes.
Even more troubling to liberals,majority of voters trust the state is heading in the wrong direction — signaling a potential shift to GOP control in some critical places.
In an August speech, Biden said that his plans nationwide to revive the economy “worked,” a simple line that Republicans have drawn in campaign material.
“Since Biden is adamant that his economic plan ‘works’, it’s worth asking, is he deliberately causing all this economic suffering?” Tommy Pigott, who runs the Republican National Committee’s rapid response effort, wrote in an email blast.
Biden, of course, is not in the vote this year. But because of the leader of state and the alternate campaign head for the party in charge of both chambers of Congress, his aligned candidate could end up taking the hit.
Democrats saw the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade as a horrible and inhuman thing, so they have every right to work trying to turn that anger into sound.
Democrats “work to make sure voters hear every dire quote, seeing the antipathy they have for women” on the other hand, said Julie McClain Downey, vice president of communications at American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic advocacy and lobbying firm that focuses heavily on reproductive freedom. since the decision in June.
Democrats such as McClain Downey have demonstrated the GOP’s coordinated efforts to reverse protection around choice. The goal is to make sure voters “know exactly who wants to take the freedom to make medical decisions out of their hands and seize it for themselves: the Republicans,” he said.
Polls have shown that this issue has a power that surprises many. Democrats have also won every special House election since the court ruling, and candidates for House, Senate and governorship across the country have focused their campaigns around electing voters convincing Republicans to work to take up reproductive rights.
At the same time, some opinion polls show that this issue is less important to voters than the economy.
Republicans have struggled to defend the court’s decision. Some candidates, including Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), have taken hard-line positions against abortion, while others have tempered or even softened their stance as they entered election mode.
More recently, Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, a former soccer star competing with Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), denied paying for an abortion for the mother of one of his children, as accused in the bomb seriesfromreport by Daily Beast. Walker has repeatedly said that he is against abortion under any circumstances.
Republicans have made progress in recent weeks on two Senate battlegrounds by characterizing Democratic candidates as criminal defenders closely linked to the party seeking to “defund the cops.”
GOP operators and national strategists have stepped up their attacks on Mandela Barnes, the Democratic Senate nominee in Wisconsin and the young black progressive, and Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman.
In Wisconsin, Republicans have run advertisements seeking to tie Barnes to criminal justice reforms they consider lenient on crime. In Pennsylvania, the GOP has highlighted the crimes happening around Philadelphia.
The tactic seems to have worked. Barnes now trails Johnson after taking the lead this summer. And the competition between Fetterman and Republican nominee Mehmet Oz is getting tougher.
Democratic strategists told The Hill that the Wisconsin race did not take place in isolation and that crime is likely to be a defining issue for future stiff competition.
In the view of many Democrats, the party needs to be on high alert to defend itself against the GOP’s criticism of liberal candidates as soft on crime, which many argue is rooted in racism and long-standing tropes meant to divide the country by race and class.
If there’s one midterm issue that’s likely to preview most of the 2024 presidential primaries, it’s immigration. Just look at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right)’s recent decision to move migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, a wealthy coastal area in Massachusetts.
DeSantis is one of the leading Republicans trying to create a national platform out of the country’s divided stance on immigration. His approach, which critics say amounts to political theatre, shares some of the broad contours of Trump’s own policy platform, which includes his signature endorsement of building a wall across the US border with Mexico.
In Texas, GOP Governor Greg Abbott also ordered buses full of migrants from Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, and other countries in his state to depart for Washington, DC, specifically for the residence of Vice President Harris.
The Republican governor’s second move came just before a federal appeals court ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was illegal. The decision, which came this week, allows current program recipients to retain their status for the time being, but sends warning bells to the activist community who say the move creates another uncertain pathway for immigrant children living in the US.
“A terrible and deeply disappointing decision,” said Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, a pro-immigration advocacy group. “We will almost certainly see nearly 700,000 DACA recipients lose work permits, lose protection from deportation and have their lives thrown into chaos in the near future.”
The Trump effect was arguably both sides’ biggest head-scratcher in November.
Trump sees many of the candidates he supports winning their primaries in key states and districts, but there is debate among Republicans whether rivals imitating his ideology will succeed in November.
Democrats have, in some cases, poured money into candidates they thought would be easier to beat: far-right Republicans who denied the results of the last presidential election and sympathized with conservative fringe groups.
But there is disagreement among Democrats about whether focusing on Trump is an effective tactic. Biden, for his part, is highly critical of the “ultra-MAGA Republicans,” a group he believes is a small but outspoken and potentially dangerous faction of the GOP. And some Democrats are trying to make the former president’s case a threat to democracy itself.
However, others maintain that sticking to policy is how to win midterms.
Many Republicans, meanwhile, have continued to embrace Trump, showing up at rallies with him and counting on his still strong popularity with the GOP base.
Trump, meanwhile, is embroiled in his own political woes. He faces a barrage of coverage of several ongoing investigations into his finances, including from the New York attorney general, as well as near-daily headlines about the FBI attack on his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.