Republican National Committee officials are advising party candidates to stay focused on the economic woes and rising crime that top voters’ concerns, insisting that those are still winning issues regardless of news media cheerleading for a Democratic rebound in the midterm campaigns.
The RNC strategy, delivered in a memo Tuesday, also directed Republican candidates in swing-district races to remind voters of the Democrats’ “extreme” positions on abortion such as abortion on demand up until and during birth.
“While Biden and out-of-touch Democrats refuse to address the economic peril they created, voters have made it abundantly clear that this election is about the economy and crime,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement accompanying the memo. “Meanwhile, Republican candidates are meeting voters where they are and discussing the issues they care about, from the economy to crime and safety.
“In November, voters will turn to the candidates who showed compassion and solutions for their concerns, which is why Republicans are in the strongest position to take back the House and Senate,” she said.
The RNC is pushing for a post-Labor Day reboot after a series of updated political forecasts suggested that Democrats are in a far better position than they once were to defend their slim Senate majority and limit casualties in the House.
According to the memo, that storyline is more wishful thinking on behalf of Democrats than a reflection of reality on the ground, particularly if Republicans sharpen their message on top issues for voters, including independents.
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Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network and the New Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, said the memo smacked of desperation.
“A reasonable interpretation of this new RNC memo is nothing the Rs are doing right now is working, and they are in trouble this fall,” Mr. Rosenberg said on Twitter.
The Republican memo was blasted out Tuesday morning before the stock market tumbled in response to news that inflation climbed higher than expected in August, stirring fears that the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates again.
Still, the clarion call from the RNC to its candidates underscored bubbling fears that the party is squandering a prime opportunity to flip control of both chambers of Congress and stymie the Biden agenda for the next two years.
Conventional political wisdom for months had been that Democrats were doomed this fall because of Mr. Biden’s poor approval rating, sky-high inflation and soaring gas prices. Aside from the glaring exception of core inflation, the political landscape in many ways has improved for Democrats.
Mr. Biden’s approval rating has ticked up, though it’s still underwater. Gas prices ticked down. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a national right to abortion, energized the liberal base of the party.
On the legislative front, Democrats established a law targeting climate change and drug prices and Mr. Biden vowed to cancel up to $20,000 of student debt in a hat tip to liberal activists.
Meanwhile, Republicans nominated some untested and unconventional candidates in key Senate races. Many of them rallied behind hard-line abortion restrictions before the Roe ruling and embraced former President Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen election.
Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats now see an opening to frame the midterm elections as a referendum on Mr. Trump and “MAGA Republicans.” They are warning voters that Mr. Trump and his supporters represent a threat to the American way of life and are betting that the message will unite Democrats, independents and some anti-Trump Republicans.
In the RNC memo, officials urged Republican candidates to ignore the noise of the mainstream media, run their campaigns on their terms and focus on the issues that drive most voters.
“Democrats and the national media are determined to try and make abortion the top issue ahead of the midterms, however, the media is not on our side, and we do not answer to them but to voters,” the memo said. “Voters have made clear this election is largely about the economy and crime.”
A majority of voters, including independents, say rising costs and the state of the economy will have more of an impact on their vote than abortion, the memo said.
Republican candidates can seize the upper hand by sharing real-life stories of how Democratic policies are hurting constituents and showing an alternative policy vision that will attract voters, the memo said.
“Republicans MUST bring solutions to the table in order to win,” it said.
Plus, voters are more likely to support lower government spending to address inflation than higher taxes and more spending.
The RNC said polling showed Republicans have a 16-point edge over Democrats on the issue of crime.
Republicans have a 22-point edge with voters when they are asked to choose between a Democrat who supports abortion “at any time for any reason” and a “Pro-life Republican who supports exceptions for instances of rape, incest, or the life of the mother.”
The memo coincided with more warning signs.
The Trafalgar Group released a poll conducted on behalf of the conservative Convention of States Action that showed a majority of voters, including 57% of independent voters, say national Republicans haven’t made a strong enough case to earn midterm votes.
“Considering the failure of Afghanistan, inflation, student loans, the recession we are in, the attempted vaccine mandates, the border, and President Biden’s dark and dangerous speech recently, the Biden administration has been a complete disaster, and his record low approval numbers show that,” said Mark Meckler, president of the Convention of States.
“Logically, one would think that national Republicans would be riding high, able to take advantage of this situation to create momentum,” he said.
“Yet, the fact is the feckless leadership, poor communication, and what appears to be a non-existent strategy is causing voters to say loud and clear: you need to try harder.”
He pushed Republicans to offer a clear alternative vision for the country.
“If the GOP thinks they are just going to win this thing by not being Joe Biden, they are sorely mistaken,” he said.