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Wednesday, September 14, 2022

OPINION:

With a bit more than 50 days to go until the midterm elections, one issue has risen to the top of voters’ minds that recalls James Carville’s mantra to then-candidate Bill Clinton when he ran the upstart’s presidential campaign: It’s the economy, stupid.

Prices across the board continue to soar, with electricity the latest to surge. Along with sky-high prices at the gas pump and grocery store — food prices are up 13.5% over last year — voters will be casting their ballots with an eye on their wallets, looking for the candidate who can best handle the economy.


Polls have historically given Republicans the edge when it comes to handling the economy and 2022 likely will be no different. While the mainstream media has of late sought to make the elections seem close, a slew of polls shows the GOP poised for big wins.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich this week laid out a five-point plan to secure a Republican majority. Top among his issues is the economy — and he urged GOP candidates not to fall for President Joe Biden‘s attempt to deflect and distract.

“First, ignore the media’s efforts to get you to focus on 2024 presidential politics and the unending effort to smear President Donald Trump,” Mr. Gingrich wrote. “Your job is to stay focused on the issues that matter in the lives of everyday people.”

“The cost-of-living crisis, especially the skyrocketing cost of food, comes first. The ripple effects of the cost-of-living crisis on electricity prices, gasoline prices, heating oil in the Northeast, diesel fuel, fertilizer, and other necessities should be a part of your campaign. When possible, campaign at gas stations and grocery stores. Explain big-government socialist spending as the major cause of inflation,” the former Georgia Republican wrote.

A new poll this week showed Mr. Gingrich is spot on. The Rasmussen Reports survey found 58% of voters want Mr. Biden to move on from the 2020 election — and his new campaign tactic of attacking Trump supporters — and fix the economy.

The party that holds the White House usually loses congressional seats in the first midterm after a presidential election — regardless of whether the president is popular. For instance, Ronald Reagan lost 26 House seats, Trump 40, Bill Clinton lost 52 and the uber-popular Barack Obama 63. George W. Bush’s Republican Party picked up seats — eight — in his first midterm, which came after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

It’s not a recent phenomenon. In the 40 midterm elections to have been held since 1862, the party in the White House has lost seats in the House 36 times. 

The driving issue in many of those losses was the economy, just as it will be in 2022. But Mr. Gingrich said other issues will be on voters’ minds on Nov. 8.

“Crime may be the big sleeper issue this fall,” Mr. Gingrich said. “Philadelphia is on pace to suffer from a record number of homicides in 2022. A staggering 70% of Philadelphians consider crime and safety their biggest issue. Biden said nothing about it while speaking there.”

Voters are also concerned about the flood of foreigners illegally crossing the border. So far this fiscal year, the Border Patrol reports more than 1.94 million “encounters” at the border — up from just over 458,000 in 2020, when Mr. Trump was in charge.

And the right of parents to have a say in their children’s education will also be a key issue, Mr. Gingrich said. “As high a number as 84% believe parents have an absolute right to know what is being taught to their children,” he wrote.

Over the summer, politicos and pollsters said Republicans were on the verge of a landslide. But the mainstream media has sought to reframe the elections — with little data to back up the claims — as far closer than once projected.

“Could unexpected Democratic gains foil a midterm Republican victory?” The Guardian reported this month. “Red wave crashing? GOP momentum slips as fall sprint begins,” wrote The Associated Press. “From a Republican ‘tsunami’ to a ‘puddle,’” opined CNN.

Still, top political watchers say Republicans will handily retake control of the House. “In early September, our model expects Republicans to win 224 House seats, a gain of 11 seats from 2020,” The Economist wrote this week. “They achieve a majority of at least 218 seats in 74% of simulations.”

That is, of course, if GOP candidates stay on point and drive home the key issues voters most care about, especially the economy. And Mr. Gingrich is exactly right: Let’s hope Republicans campaign at gas stations under the signs saying a gallon of regular costs $3.75.

For all the campaign managers out there, have your candidate note that a gallon cost $2.38 when Mr. Biden took office. 

And that’ll be all she wrote.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl


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