The midterm elections are less than a month away. With Democrats holding the House and Senate by the narrowest of margins, control of Congress is on the line. Early voting is already underway in most states.
Earlier this year, a “red-wave” seemed inevitable with President Biden’s approval numbers tanking and gas prices hitting all-time highs.
Then the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision reversed Roe v. Wade, gas prices subsided somewhat, and the White House scored a couple of legislative victories. Democrats made up ground while Republicans nominated several weak candidates. The midterms didn’t look as bleak for Democrats in September.
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As the campaign enters its final month, polls suggest Republicans are regaining an advantage as voters list the economy, specifically inflation and crime, as their top issues in every survey.
The New York Times/Siena College poll released October 17 shows Republicans back in front by a four-point margin in the generic ballot (49 to 45 percent). Women who identify as independents provided the biggest shift from Democrats to Republicans between September and October. In the poll, abortion is the top issue among just five percent of voters.
Although inflation and the economy consistently rank at the top of voters’ concerns for the midterm elections, what comes next can vary from poll to poll.
The polls suggest that voters’ choices are still fluid, especially independent voters. For Republicans to have a wave election, the GOP needs strong margins among independents. An “October surprise” would help.
For the past few days, I’ve been watching online focus groups conducted in Pennsylvania as part of the Swing Voter Project. The groups cover a range of topics. You can view the sessions yourself: https://engagious.com/swingvoters/
Group participants voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. There was an even split of Democrats and Republicans with a couple of independents. In my opinion, the participants had a decidedly Democrat lean, but I have no reason to doubt that the screening was accurate.
Focus groups are qualitative, not quantitative. Focus groups can help explore perceptions about specific subjects. Because of their small sample sizes, they may or may not represent the entire marketplace.
Most interesting is the perception of what Republicans will do if they win the majority in the House and Senate. However, in the Pennsylvania focus groups, there is limited awareness of what the GOP plans if they win majorities.
Participants overwhelmingly think if Republicans win control of Congress, banning abortion nationwide is the top item on their agenda.
Republicans aren’t running on abortion, but virtually every Democrat ad assails Republican candidates for opposition to abortion and warns they will outlaw it if they win the majority.
The Democrats have gotten the abortion message through. Participants find it credible that Republicans will ban abortion nationwide.
It’s disappointing how ineffective Republican messages are about reducing inflation, increasing domestic energy supplies, fighting crime, and protecting the border.
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Participants are more confident that Republicans will investigate Democrats if the GOP wins control of Congress.
A couple of quotes from the recently conducted online Pennsylvania focus groups, part of the Swing Voter Project stood out.
“The word I hear a lot is revenge — a lot of revenge talk. I don’t know what else they want. They’ll use their positions for payback in whatever fashion they see fit.”
“All I’ve heard them say is they want to impeach, investigate, and obstruct. McCarthy has made that clear on numerous occasions.”
I don’t have any other data, but it seems Congressional investigations have become personal, petty, and motivated by revenge and lust for power — not any desire to discover truths. Furthermore, the investigations suck up time, cost money, and create personal animosity, making it impossible for Members of Congress to work together to get the people’s work done.
While there’s no doubt that both parties’ bases enjoy when their side can conduct investigations into the other party, it’s gone too far. Somebody must stop it.
For an “October Surprise,” Republicans should pledge to forgo investigations into political enemies if they win control of the House and Senate.
It’s fair to campaign on Hunter Biden’s laptop and “the Big Guy” getting ten percent off the top. The pledge is to let the voters decide and not waste Congress’s time or the taxpayers’ money investigating political enemies.
The pledge won’t sit well with the Republican base angry over the witch-hunt Democrats put Trump, his administration, and associates through. The core must understand that forgoing more investigations should stop all the nonsense. If Democrats continue to pursue Trump, independents will finally see the charade for what it is and, hopefully, sour on the Party that continues to pursue witch-hunts. If not, it doesn’t take long to get investigations started.
Maybe the Swing Voter Project can test this idea?
The red-wave election is still possible if independents vote in mass with Republicans. The best way to appeal to independents is an “October surprise.” If the GOP promises to stop investigations motivated by revenge and power, instead focusing its new majority’s activity on inflation, energy production, crime, and the border, independents will come home to the Republican Party. Independents are waiting to hear if Republicans will prioritize the people’s business.
Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio). He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.