The 2022 midterm elections are a few weeks away. Will it be a red or blue wave? Or a shade of purple? Which party will control Congress in January?
Rasmussen Reports, in a recent survey of likely U.S. voters found that: “Republicans have a seven-point lead in their bid to recapture control of Congress.” They also observed: “The GOP lead is up three points from last week, when they led 47% to 43%.”
Republicans should not break out the champagne quite yet as the GOP, also known as the “stupid party,” is fully capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. One example is in my state of Colorado where the Republican Senate candidate Joe O’Dea made these remarks on CNN:
“I don’t think Donald Trump should run again,” O’Dea said in an interview Sunday on CNN’s "State of the Union." “I’m going to actively campaign against Donald Trump and make sure that we’ve got four or five really great Republicans right now.”
Is that a smart move for a GOP Senate candidate? Even in blue state Colorado? CNN reluctantly acknowledged a month ago: “Yes, the former president is, without question, the favorite to win the Republican nomination for a third time.” Running against Trump now, when he is not on the ballot next month, may lead many MAGA Republicans to not vote for Trump-bashing Republican candidates or else vote for the Democrat out of spite.
I am not endorsing this strategy, as control of the Senate is vitally important. I would rather hold my nose and vote for a Joe O’Dea as I did for Mitt Romney and John McCain than risk Congress fully in control of the Democrats, accelerating America’s destruction.
In contrast, are there any Democrats announcing that they will “actively campaign against Joe Biden” should he last until 2024 and seek a second term as president? Democrats circle the wagons around their candidates, even if they wish the candidate was someone else. Republicans on the other hand are quick to throw their most promising candidates under the bus, infuriating their base, all but guaranteeing their defeat.
A former Colorado congressman, Mike Coffman, learned this lesson in 2018. In a 2016 campaign ad, Coffman promised Republican voters, “So if Donald Trump is the president, I’ll stand up to him. Plain and simple.” Two years later, the five-term congressman lost reelection to Democrat Jason Crowe as GOP voters “stood up” to Coffman for dissing their party’s leader. GOP candidate O’Dea may be delivering a concession speech on election night if voters react similarly to his anti-Trump rhetoric.
As Donald Trump isn’t on any ballot next month, he should not be an issue, unless the GOP candidates decide to make him one. While they may think they are appeasing a hostile media and a few moderate voters by dissing Trump, if they alienate the GOP base, they will lose, soundly.
In Colorado the argument is that the Republican candidate can’t win without the “unaffiliated” voters. But they certainly can’t win without their GOP base. Why even say things that will alienate one group over the other? This is an unforced error.
Instead, GOP candidates need to ask one simple question that has nothing directly to do with Donald Trump.
“Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”
Flash back to the presidential campaign of 1980. Another successful GOP candidate asked this same question.
In the final week of the 1980 presidential campaign between Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican nominee Ronald Reagan, the two candidates held their only debate. Going into the Oct. 28 event, Carter had managed to turn a dismal summer into a close race for a second term. And then, during the debate, Reagan posed what has become one of the most important campaign questions of all time: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Carter’s answer was a resounding “NO,” and in the final, crucial days of the campaign, his numbers tanked. On Election Day, Reagan won a huge popular vote and electoral victory. The “better off” question has been with us ever since. Its simple common sense makes it a great way to think about elections. And yet the answers are rarely simple.
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This is a no brainer for any Republican candidate. They don’t have to weigh in on Donald Trump or the January 6 commission clown show. Instead, just ask the question. If asked about Trump, simply reply that he is not on any ballot and this campaign is not about Trump but about reversing Democrat policies that are crushing the wallets, spirits, and lives of Americans.
Start with the top issues for voters. CNN notes: “The economy and inflation are the dominant issues three weeks out from the midterm congressional elections.” Let’s look at some of those issues.
Inflation in September 2018 was 2.3 percent. Four years later, in September 2022, it was 8.2 percent, a more than 3-fold increase.
GDP, picking time points four years apart, provides a similar view. Second quarter GDP in 2018 was 2.8 percent. In second quarter 2022, GDP was -0.6 percent, a 3.4 percentage-point difference.
Consumer confidence was hovering near 100 in 2018, and is now at 60 in 2022, according to the University of Michigan.
Average gasoline price is another metric, $2.25 per gallon in 2018 versus at $3.82 per gallon today.
Illegal immigration is an important issue to compare today to four years ago. According to Statista, alien apprehensions by the U.S. Border Patrol increased from 311,000 in 2017 to 1.66 million in 2021, a more than five-fold increase. This does not count those that were not apprehended, which is likely a much larger figure. The latest 2022 data from the Associated Press are even worse:
In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, migrants were stopped 2.38 million times, up 37% from 1.73 million times the year before, according to figures released late Friday night. The annual total surpassed 2 million for the first time in August and is more than twice the highest level during Donald Trump’s presidency in 2019.
These are but just a few metrics that are far worse now than they were four years ago. That should be the message Republican candidates deliver to potential voters, not what they think of Donald Trump or his hypothetical candidacy.
As James Carville once said: “It’s the economy stupid.” That’s still the message. “More than 90 percent of voters are concerned about the U.S. economy and inflation, according to the latest POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.”
Democrats know better. They are neither asked nor do they volunteer their opinions on potential Democrat presidential candidates for 2024, whether it's Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, or Gavin Newsom. Why should they pontificate on hypothetical candidates?
Yet Republicans do just that, goaded into commenting by the media, eager to divide the Republican Party by pitting MAGA supporters against NeverTrumpers, splitting the GOP vote, guaranteeing a Democrat victory. As Glenn Reynolds recently wrote: “Dems want the midterms to be a referendum on Trump, not bungling Biden — and the media are compliant.”
Republicans should know better and had better wake up.
Trump said it best on Truth Social,
There’s this RINO character in the Great State of Colorado, Joe O’Dea, that is running against the incumbent Democrat for the United States Senate, who is having a good old time saying that he wants to “distance” himself from President Trump, and other slightly nasty things. He should look at the Economy, Inflation, Energy Independence, defeating ISIS, the Strongest EVER Border, Great Trade Deals, & much more, before he speaks. MAGA doesn’t Vote for stupid people with big mouths. Good luck Joe!
Good luck indeed. Republican candidates already have the deck stacked against them, vehemently opposed by the media, Hollywood, academia, big tech, and much of the woke corporate world. Alienating their base is a self-inflicted error, easily avoidable, and if pursued, leading to a predictable outcome.
Wake up, Republican candidates, and just keep it simple. Ask the question, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”
Brian C. Joondeph, M.D., is a physician and writer. Follow me on Twitter @retinaldoctor, Truth Social @BrianJoondeph, and LinkedIn @Brian Joondeph.