- Nada Tawfik
- BBC reporter from Ohio, USA
Americans who will vote in this week’s congressional elections will have one big question on their minds — the economy. This is good news for one of the parties.
In Circleville, Ohio, there’s no better way to herald the start of fall festivities than the annual Pumpkin Show. It has been called “the best free exhibition on earth”.
For some residents and voters this year, the only thing heavier than that 1,800-pound pumpkin is the cost of living burden.
Kari Stephens, 50, said the economy was in such a dire situation right now that it was like being “thrown down the toilet”.
In her view, the Democratic leadership in Washington now “doesn’t care and has forgotten about the little folks in Ohio.” She said Democrats were concerned with unearthly things, such as, for example, pushing for the popularization of electric cars she couldn’t afford, she said.
Despite record numbers of jobs and some of the causes of inflation out of Democrats’ control, they have stumbled along the way in trying to get a message through the economy, and Republicans have used this to keep their party in power in check. Chase and fight. Polls show that momentum favors Republicans.
Inflation is the biggest worry
Ohio, once a swing state, has veered to the right in recent years. The state voted former President Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, in part because of his promise to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
Here and across the country, inflation is making it harder for Democrats. More Americans trust Republicans over the economy and oil prices, according to an ABC/IPSOS poll less than three weeks before the election. Not a Democrat.
“What we care about is how much the eggs cost in the grocery store,” Ms Stephens told the BBC. “18 eggs, $7.85, is unaffordable for someone with three children; even if we both work, Can’t afford it either.”
She leans conservatively, but says she doesn’t usually give all of her places on the ballot to one party.
On the other hand, Jerome Phillips, 59, voted for Joe Biden and Democrats in 2020. He didn’t know who he would vote for this time. Jerome blamed former President Trump for the “bad economy” but also said Biden was a “complete disappointment.”
“He didn’t do anything to help the economy, he didn’t do anything,” he said. “Prices are going up and you can’t even eat.”
According to a mid-October survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, inflation is at the top of Americans’ economic worries. Nearly three-quarters of respondents were concerned about food and consumer prices, closely followed by gasoline and energy, and housing costs.
The Pew report found that these concerns are widespread across ethnic groups and income brackets. While the survey found responses were slightly partisan, a majority of Democrats (66%) and Republicans (81%) said they were very concerned about inflation.
Economic Issues in the Election Campaign
President Biden has tried to use his blue-collar background to sell a vision of building a better America for all through a “bottom-up, middle-out” economy.
At a recent Democratic National Committee event, he warned that Republicans would wreak havoc on the U.S. economy and that they were “intensifying their ‘MAGA’ (Make America Great Again)” Penetrates economics to benefit the richest.”
Democrats defended Biden’s record, pointing to inflation as a global phenomenon and citing record job recovery amid the global pandemic. The U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October, bringing the total number of jobs created since Biden became president to more than 10 million. That’s more than any other president has done in his first 20 months in office.
But some Democratic candidates have distanced themselves from Biden, who has less than 50 percent approval. They have instead sought to highlight what they see as partisan achievements, such as through long-awaited action packages on issues such as infrastructure, climate, health care and student loans.
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It’s just that these Democrats’ “victories” won’t be felt by voters for months or even years.
Mike Lux is a Democratic strategist who has studied voting trends in America’s industrial heartland. He said Democrats should have done more, sooner. While he believes that candidates like Ohio’s Tim Ryan and Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman have done a good job explaining how they will deal with inflation and advocate for wage earners, But he said many candidates have been focusing solely on abortion.
Meanwhile, Republicans have seized on fears of inflation and oil prices by accusing Democrats of overspending — an often-cited topic — and limiting energy production.
The current surge in fuel prices, largely determined by supply and demand, is due to the war in Ukraine. Republicans, however, still blame Democrats for their policies and claim they would open up oil drilling and pipelines to make America energy independent.
Democrats should have gone out and talked about inflation and the economy and controlled the narrative precisely because that is the dominant issue in the current political landscape, said Democratic strategist Lucas. “I think avoiding this issue is the worst thing the Democrats have done,” he said.
According to the Wesleyan Media Project, messaging around inflation still dominates Republican propaganda. Last month, 32 percent of pro-Republican propaganda was about inflation, compared with just 8 percent of pro-Democratic propaganda. The opposite is true for abortion, with 28 percent of pro-Democratic propaganda focused on the issue, compared to 3 percent of Republican propaganda.
Gunner Ramer, political director of the Republican Accountability project, an anti-Trump Republican group, said Republicans spent tens of millions of dollars targeting Democrats on the economy and inflation and found that It’s a very effective propaganda.
Lamer explained that Democrats face the same problems as any party in power, and that any economic troubles voters face will be blamed on them, no matter how hard they try to promote any of their achievements. “The livelihood issues at the dinner table are still important, and Democrats are going to lose out,” he said.
Meanwhile, low-income households continue to take the hardest hit from inflation.
Jameka Humphries is a single mom who just moved to a better school district for her son Jayden. Even with three jobs, her purchasing power was crippled by GM.
“Without inflation, I would have more confidence in the future,” she said, “and more confidence in making long-term decisions.”
She didn’t blame Democrats or Biden for her difficult situation, but she didn’t give Biden much credit either. “I don’t think he’s doing a bad job, and I don’t think he’s doing a good job. He’s just doing it,” she said.
Humphries did not know who to vote for at the polling station. While other issues are at play in this election, inflation and economic concerns threaten to dash Democrats’ hopes this November.
After all, as the Democratic Party’s own slogan puts it: “Fool, the problem is the economy.”