Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Wednesday that Republicans can’t afford to blow a once-in-a-generation campaign opportunity to tag all congressional Democrats as “big government socialists” by supporting President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social welfare spending package.
“To have an issue of this size involving $3½ trillion in spending and about $3 trillion in taxes, and to have every single Democrat having voted lockstep in favor of it, gives you a weight of argument unlike anything I’ve seen in recent years,” Mr. Gingrich said in an interview with The Washington Times.
Polling conducted for the conservative American Majority project is “clear and devastating” for Democrats if Republicans define them as big-government socialists, he said.
Republican pollster John McLaughlin has found that Americans generally favor free market capitalism over big-government socialism by a margin of 59% to 16%. Among swing voters, that margin increases to 82% to 18%.
A strong majority of those swing voters already believe that Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending bill defines the party as big-government socialists, the polling showed.
Given that view, Mr. Gingrich said, Republicans need to develop “a new way of talking” about the issue. He said Republicans can’t allow some Democrats who voted for the package in August to portray themselves as moderates.
“Every single Democrat in the House and Senate voted for what is literally Bernie Sanders’ bill,” he said. “Bernie Sanders, for Pete’s sake, is an open and avowed socialist. It’s not slandering him to say that he’s a socialist. So you’re in a position where you can literally pin every single Democrat running for reelection against that reality.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee criticized Democrats on Wednesday for “barreling through an additional $3.5 trillion (more like $5.5 trillion) in reckless spending in order to completely remake the U.S. economy into a socialist utopia.”
“Will Senate Democrats like Maggie Hassan [of New Hampshire], Mark Kelly [of Arizona], Raphael Warnock [of Georgia], Catherine Cortez Masto [of Nevada] and Michael Bennet [of Colorado] finally speak out against their party’s inflation-inducing spending, or will they continue to turn a blind eye to the negative impacts their far-Left policies have on American families?” the NRSC said.
A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the spending proposals in the package are popular.
“Democrats will deliver on highly popular, once-in-a-generation investments in infrastructure, access to child care and health care, and energy independence for the American people,” said DCCC spokesman Chris Taylor.
“Americans agree: The uber-wealthy and corporations should pay their fair share to support these investments in America’s future.
“Meanwhile, House Republicans are stuck shifting from one half-baked message to the next because [House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy and his extremist circus have zero ideas and even less moral integrity to campaign on,” he said.
In August, all House and Senate Democrats supported moving ahead with the framework of the spending package. The House is heading toward a final vote after several days of a Ways and Means Committee markup this week.
“Never has our government wasted so much to kill so many American jobs, drive prices even higher and hook a whole new generation of the poor on government dependency,” Rep. Kevin Brady, Texas Republican, said during the committee’s sessions.
“Coming out of a pandemic, the last thing Americans need are higher prices, fewer jobs and the largest expansion of our welfare state in our lifetimes,” he said.
Mr. Biden met Wednesday with Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who are resisting the total price tag.
Some Democrats also have expressed concern that the massive spending plan would make some incumbents vulnerable.
Democratic consultant Douglas Schoen has said pursuing the $3.5 trillion proposal “will end up being a lose-lose situation for Democrats in the 2022 midterms.”
Writing in The Hill, Mr. Schoen compared the situation to the 1994 and 2010 midterms, when Democrats lost heavily because of voters’ perceptions that they had overreached.
The conservative Club for Growth announced Monday that it would run TV ads in 10 House districts, including that of Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Illinois Republican, “focusing on out-of-control spending, inflation, and the $3 trillion tax increase proposed by Biden and the Democrats.”
The ads will run for one week starting Thursday, the first phase of a $2 million campaign opposing the Democrats’ plan.
The Club for Growth said the ads will run in nine districts held by “persuadable Democrats” and by Mr. Kinzinger, citing his “numerous” occasions of supporting Mr. Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, on spending.
“Washington is out of touch with America,” said Club for Growth President David McIntosh. “Democrats and even some Republicans need to realize that their constituents will roundly reject the out-of-control spending and $3 trillion increase in taxes.”
The Democrats targeted in the ad are Reps. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, Jared Golden of Maine, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Susie Lee of Nevada, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, and Vicente Gonzalez, Henry Cuellar and Filemon Vela, all of Texas.
Mr. Gingrich said the $3.5 trillion package is a gold mine of campaign ammunition for Republicans in 2022.
“The next phase is just having to sit down and work through all of the things in the bill that prove that it’s a dramatic expansion of government into your life,” he said. “You begin to have sort of a cradle-to-grave government power over your life.”
Democrats’ votes for the package “have given Republicans the opportunity of a lifetime to brand the Democratic Party so it becomes a minority for a generation or more,” Mr. Gingrich wrote in a separate commentary at Gingrich360.com.
“The test is now on the Republican side — and in the conservative movement — to see if they can rise to the opportunity,” he said.