What Will the Republican Message Be for the Midterms?

.Following the election in Virginia last November, several polls showed that healthcare—and the Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare—played a key role in the election of Democrat Ralph Northam over Republican Ed Gillespie. Public Policy Polling found the same thing in Pennsylvania’s special election yesterday.

The exit poll shows that health care was a top priority issue to voters in this district and that voters believed Democrat Conor Lamb’s views were more in step with theirs…

On health care, voters said Lamb better reflected their views by 7 points (45% to 38%) over Saccone…

Voters in this heavily Republican district disapproved of the Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act by 14 points (53% to 39%).

That means that on the issues, Donald Trump and Republicans came out with a huge swing and miss early in 2017 and voters never forgot, even though most of the media moved on to other things.

The next big issue for Republicans after they failed to repeal Obamacare was passage of their tax cuts. Apparently that message didn’t work too well in Pennsylvania.

Ads mentioning the tax law dropped from nearly 70% of all messages in the first two weeks of February to less than 1% by early March.

Additionally, Lamb blasted the law during rallies, saying it’s a giveaway for the rich, and former Vice President Joe Biden took shots at the law while campaigning in the district.

When it comes to items that could be on the agenda this year, Trump’s infrastructure plan is a joke and will go nowhere in Congress. Even with overwhelming support among voters for common sense gun safety laws, neither the president nor Congress is willing to move on that issue. Now the president is itching for a trade war, which will completely alienate rural voters who depend on agricultural exports.

I say all of this because it’s hard to see where Republican candidates will go on issues affecting voters over the next few months as we head into the midterm elections. Based on what we’ve seen, they’re sure to ramp up the xenophobia. That keeps a certain segment of their base energized, but as we saw in both Virginia and Pennsylvania, it alienates a whole other group of potential Republican voters.

Of course there are a whole host of unknowns that could happen between now and November that would change the conversation leading into the midterms. But absent anything that would work in their favor, Republicans won’t have much of anything to run on except their tried-and-true message of fear-mongering about “those dangerous Democrats.” That has worked reasonably well for them in the past. The big difference this year is that, voters gave them control of the presidency and both houses of congress. A campaign based on the politics of resentment works pretty well when you’re in the minority, but not so much when you’ve been given all the levers of power and accomplished almost nothing.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.