September 30, 2022
Republicans try to gain midterm momentum with immigration stunt

When Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis sent 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, the affluent Massachusetts island favored as a vacation destination by progressives, it was an attempt to draw attention to an issue in which The Democratic Party deals badly with the electorate.

DeSantis’ move this week comes days after Republican Governor Greg Abbott of Texas said he had sent two buses of migrants to the home of Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington DC.

Pollsters said the headline-making stunt would set the Republican base on fire, but said they suggested a sense of desperation in a party that is looking for ways to restart a stammering campaign ahead of the midterm election. .

With rising inflation in Americans’ incomes and President Joe Biden’s approval rating in negative territory, the election in November should be one for the Republican Party to lose – especially given that the governing party loses control of Congress in the mid-term.

In early summer, Republicans appeared ready to take control of both houses. But after the Supreme Court overturned national abortion protections and came under scrutiny for allegedly misrepresenting classified information to former President Donald Trump, the pace has changed.

Now that Democrats favor winning the Senate, a “red wave” victory in the House was expected to be a more close contest, even if Republicans end up with a majority.

“Both sides are playing a game of base politics, which makes sense in a midterm election when not many independents turn up to vote,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

“Immigration energizes Republicans like any other issue,” he said. “But they need it — all the polls are telling us right now is the energy Democrats have.”

This week gave Republicans a chance to win the news cycle as an unexpected rise in inflation caught the White House by surprise. On Tuesday morning, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics published data showing consumer prices rose in August, triggering a stock market sell-off and sparking a new round of headlines about rising inflation.

Biden and his advisers expected the monthly figure to show a slight decline in consumer prices. He also prescribed a White House “celebration” of his Inflation Reduction Act, a package of health and climate measures with the somewhat derogatory title that it would do little to deal with the current bout of price pressures.

Senior party officials were concerned that the incident, in which thousands of supporters marched on the South Lawn waving American flags, would show the administration out of touch.

“The timing of the party was less than ideal – I’m not sure why the White House chose it as a day to do it,” said one.

But by Tuesday evening, inflation had been dropped to the top of the news agenda by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who drew voters’ attention to abortion after publishing proposals to ban the procedure nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy. .

Graham’s announcement not only distracted from inflation figures, it also undermined Republicans’ central argument on abortion, which is a matter for individual states. Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, declined to endorse his aide, saying he would “leave it to our candidates . . for them to determine what their response is”.

“Graham’s announcement struck me as a desperate bid for relevance,” said Juliana Glover, a former Republican official who turned lobbyist. “I don’t think there is any greater good for the party than this or for the women.”

Tensions arising from Graham’s proposals ignited a wide division in the party, with the likes of McConnell wanting to focus on the economy, while other Republicans – many of them playing for the Make America Great Again wing of the party – socialized. Zero on issues.

“The problem for Republicans is that their party is really divided, and they won’t be able to change that before the election,” said Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg.

DeSantis’ move to put migration back to the front of the political agenda helped reinvigorate the party, at least temporarily, on Friday. And it may still draw voters’ attention to an area where Democrats perform poorly. A poll by Siena College and The New York Times on Friday showed that 51 percent of registered voters agreed with Republicans on illegal immigration, while 37 percent agreed with Democrats.

But pollsters warn Republicans will need to do more to gain momentum, less than two months before the election. The Siena poll showed the two parties are roughly tied, with one voter leaning towards a nine-point improvement in Biden’s approval rating.

Many experts say the underlying economic and political conditions should still favor Republicans. But the party needs to work out how to take advantage of them.

“This is a unique time in American politics,” said Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute. “You have the majority of voters – including half the Democrats – saying that the country is on the wrong track. But on the other hand you have a Republican Party whose de facto leader is thought by most to have committed a serious crime.”

Sabato said: “Republicans should be in a winning position right now, but they keep stumbling upon themselves.”

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