With just a few days until one of the most consequential midterm elections of our time, indicators suggest that Republicans may struggle to retain unified control of Congress. But maintaining control simply isn’t enough, as losing any seats can make the difference between conservative policies passing or failing in the future.
But all is not lost – there’s absolutely no reason to concede defeat before a single vote has been cast. Instead of giving in to the name-calling, finger-pointing, blame-gaming circular firing squad, let’s focus instead on the considerable strengths Republicans hold heading into the election: the economy, the economy and the economy. However, simply rattling off GDP numbers and unemployment figures isn’t good enough – we have to tell a story, and effectively frame the current economic conditions in a way that connects with real voters.
Recent studies note that while Republicans own the booming economy, it has faded from the front of their campaign strategy – which is odd considering that the majority of Americans consider the economy a top priority when it comes to their voting decisions. Touting recent economic successes has the potential to position Republicans for victory, as long as we do it right and refuse to fall into traps set up by our opponents.
Here is a roadmap for Republicans on what we should hammer home with just a few days left – spoiler alert: the economy is front and center.
Be proactive and positive.
In the aftermath of perhaps the most divisive Presidential race in recent memory, it’s no secret that Americans have strong opinions about President Trump – some in favor, others opposed. For every vote a Republican candidate may earn for being on “Trump’s side of the aisle,” there are at least equal numbers of energized skeptics who are less than enamored with his governing style. These individuals may be considering staying at home, or worse, voting for a Democratic challenger. Getting to the root of what motivates these individuals is essential – and there’s one issue that has the power to make a difference: yep, the economy.
Politics has become divisive, and politicians spend so much time reacting to and criticizing their opponent that when voters get the polls on Election Day, they find themselves voting “not for your opponent” rather than voting for you. While differences between candidates are important to know, it’s equally as important to make an effort to be proactive and positive rather than reactive and negative.
Don’t spend all of your time responding to what your opponent is saying – and what’s covered in the media. You may not control the questions, but you do control the answers. Create the opportunity to move beyond the latest Trump headline or tweet, highlight the current state of the economy and how it directly relates to your constituents – regardless of whether or not your opponent or a reporter bring it up.
Ditch the basic, surface-level talking points.
As a Republican candidate, chances are you’re going to “fight for lower taxes” – and that’s great, but what does it mean to voters in your community who are frustrated with the divisiveness they see in politics? Right now, the economic boom can be your “exhibit A” when you give evidence for why those lower taxes are so important. But it’s time to get past the surface level and show the results. The results should speak for themselves, but they still need you to reinforce the positive economic narrative.
For example, according to a Tax Foundation analysis, the Republican-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provided an average tax reduction of over $1,300 for those earning $50,000 to $75,000 and an average of at least $800 for those earning $25,000 to $50,000 in all nine of Arizona’s congressional districts. There’s no need for candidates to be on the defensive when Democrats’ criticize Republicans for ignoring the middle class here – rather, use the facts to go on offense. Don’t just say the economy is going great; illustrate it with data that connects to everyday voters.
Understand the facts and keep the message simple.
The economy is complex and is composed of lot of moving parts – GDP, supply and demand, inflation and deflation, fiscal policy, monetary policy, trade policy, financial markets, etc. But while these data points are critical to support your economic arguments, barking out a litany of numbers is not compelling. What’s the connection between each of these numbers and the individual constituents in your district? Don’t be afraid to get an economics lesson if you need help sorting out some of the details.
The Democrats have facts of their own to tout, but they aren’t always the silver bullets they appear to be. For instance, Democrats will say that although GDP is up, the average American hasn’t experienced a significant wage increase. This is true, but it’s also perfectly normal. Wages are a lagging indicator and are expected to rise, something that requires explanation. Don’t fall for the “wage” trap — thoughtfully engage in this debate and make it grounded to reality.
Voters need to understand what the facts mean – and thus, you need to create the context to sell your message to the American people. Citing an unemployment rate of 3.9% in August 2018 is impactful for those of us who understand the unemployment rate. Take it one step further – clarify that means only 3.9% of the American people don’t have a job, which is the smallest number of people without jobs in 18 years.
Always return to your core message & avoid the traps
It’s easy to get caught up in the latest daily controversy presented by the media, but voters on both sides of the aisle agree that the economy is a top priority. While there are plenty of issues that you can and should debate – from the second amendment to Medicare — don’t forget to set aside time in each campaign stop to dedicate time to the economy. Considering the importance of this issue in every single Americans’ life, it is not hard to return to this core message.
For the past two years, a Republican-controlled White House, Senate and House of Representatives has paved the way for Supreme Court confirmations and various policies that have led to unprecedented economic growth. Make no mistake about it – November will determine whether Republican priorities experience smooth sailing or come to a screeching halt. Don’t fall into the traps set by political opponents or the media – lead with the strong economy, embrace it and return to it whenever possible. Stay on offense with a positive economic message that transcends party lines – it’s the best chance we have to maintain and expand a conservative majority into the future.