Chronicle: After the last two weeks, it is the Republicans who are now in disarray

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Do you know why it’s a cliché to say “X time is a lifetime in politics”? See how August is shaping up.

Just a few weeks ago, buzz more the coming “red tsunami” halfway was common. Suddenly it looks more like wishful thinking.

The shift came so suddenly that polls still trail behind what hipsters might call a political “mood shift.” Yet even some long-term trends support the idea that the GOP peaked too soon. In January, Republicans led by 7 percentage points on the generic ballot (which asks which party should control Congress), an unprecedented advantage for the Republicans. The Democrats are now ahead by 7 percentage points, a change of 14 points.

In late July, the political conversation was dominated by talk of Biden’s failing presidency, his historic unpopularity and whether he would even run again. Since then, we’ve seen a string of legislative victories, including the Cut Inflation Act (thanks to Democrats who finally mustered Sens. Joe Manchin III and Kyrsten Sinema), the murder of the leader of Al- Qaeda Ayman Zawahiri and an extremely strong group employment report which gives credence to the “it’s not a recession” of the White House! Messaging.

The most nerve-wracking shock for the GOP came in Kansas last week. In a referendum, 59% of Kansas voters, who turned out in large numbers during the summer’s scorching days, chose not to give the Republican-controlled legislature the chance to curtail the rights of the ‘abortion. Anti-abortion supporters missed both the wording of the referendum and the arguments for it, but the huge turnout and margin in a Republican state sent GOP consultants into a state of panic.

Many fundamentals are still in favor of the Republicans and it would still be shocking if they did not take over the House. The Senate is another issue, and the GOP’s problems on that front illustrate the party’s changing fortunes.

It’s one of the most enduring rules of American politics: when voters are angry, the party out of power takes advantage. This is why almost every election in the last quarter century has been an election of “change”. The key to controlling the mood of the electorate is for the non-ruling party to stay focused on why the ruling party is unpopular. Given global unrest, rising crime, high gas prices and the return of inflation, Republican talking points almost write themselves.

But thanks to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and Donald Trump’s outsized role in the primaries, the GOP is constantly removed from the script. When it comes to abortion, Republicans like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have found a safe haven by restricting abortion after 15 weeks and then taking up the message. But the national conversation is dominated by horrific stories of pregnant child rape victims and Republicans advocating outright bans. As the Kansas referendum demonstrated, many Republican politicians have been caught off guard talking about a post-Roe world and many voters, even Republicans, want time to take stock before going any further. on abortion.

The tone Republicans need to set on abortion and other issues is one of reassuring normalcy and competence. But the loudest Republicans are going in another direction.

For example, outside of the MAGA base, no one wants to hear anymore about false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. And in the context of the House committee hearings on January 6, such claims no longer sound like sour grapes, but something far more sinister.

In previous cycles, to ensure a Republican majority, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) participated in GOP primaries to boost candidates with the best chance of winning the general election. This time, McConnell let Trump play that role unchallenged. This decision could cost him the hammer of the majority leader. Trump likes to pick winners, but he mostly wants catalysts.

In Ohio, which Trump has lifted by 7 percentage points in 2020, Democrat Tim Ryan has a narrow thread on JD Vance. In Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz is behind by 11 percentage points. In Georgia, Herschel Walker is dragging Democrat Raphael Warnock by 3 percentage points in a state where the Republican governor is comfortably in the lead. In Arizona, Blake Masters is behind Democratic Senator Mark Kelly by 9 percentage points. The best you can say about Masters is that he’s not nearly as crazy as Kari Lake, the Trump-endorsed campaign conspiracy theorist who will lead the Republican ticket for governor.

This could all be just a summer flurry before the general election begins after Labor Day. But if the past few weeks have demonstrated anything, it’s that even a few weeks can be a lifetime in politics.

@JonasDispatch

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