Signal vs. Noise: Forget abortion and gun control. It’s still the economy, stupid.

by | Jul 10, 2022



  • History tells us that American voters are fickle and tend to focus on pocketbook issues when they are relevant
  • From gun control to abortion, Democrats are hopeful that the recent Dobbs ruling and mass shootings will salvage their campaigns
  • Inflation, gas prices, and the national economy remain top-of-mind issues for voters across the country

In 1992, famed Democrat strategist James Carville helped guide Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton to the White House, delivering a victory that would have stunned everyone just one year earlier, when George H.W. Bush was buoyed by a 90 percent approval rating following America’s military victory during Operation Desert Storm.

“It’s the economy, stupid.”

That phrase was uttered by Carville as a simple reminder to Clinton and his campaign team to stay on message and avoid distractions from day-to-day news developments. The phrase helped the Clinton campaign focus on what mattered most to the broadest swath of American voters: pocketbook issues.

With that now-famous phrase in mind, Clinton’s stump speeches and campaign ads resonated with voters and he easily overcame Bush’s general likability, solid approval ratings, and Republicans’ blistering attacks on Clinton’s character.

Today, American voters find themselves in similar economic territory: trying to cope with historically high gas prices, rampant inflation, and an economy teetering on the brink of a recession. For many families who were previously living on razor-thin budgets, gas and food prices have forced them to rethink daily transportation and how to feed their families.

Yet Democrats, especially some here in Florida, can’t seem to stop talking about abortion and gun control – a pair of issues that simply don’t pack the punch that Democrats need.

Last month, Val Demings, increasingly desperate to make a dent in her sputtering U.S. Senate race against incumbent GOP Senator Marco Rubio, shifted her campaign messaging to those hot button topics, even while Democrat strategists privately admitted that neither issue “has the potency to jolt the race.”

That hasn’t stopped them, from trying, though.

Recycled Democrat gubernatorial frontrunner Charlie Crist finds himself under constant harassment from Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who simply cannot stop talking about abortion over all else. In the past month, more than 70 percent of Fried’s campaign text messages have focused on the issue, telling voters over and over again that she is “angrier than ever” about both Florida’s new 15-week restriction on abortions and “furious” with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling that nixed Roe vs. Wade.

Okay, but surely Fried focused the remaining 30 percent of her campaign strategy on the economy, right?

Nope.

Fried’s messaging – her campaign’s focus – is entirely wrapped around her identity as “literally the only pro-choice candidate in the race.” That other 30 percent of her messaging either asked for more campaign contributions, or made vague, unsupported claims that she has closed the gap on Crist in the Democrat primary. Whether or not that is true will be known in six more weeks, and to be fair to Fried, she’s got to win the primary before she can campaign in the general election, where her messaging would likely shift to issues likely to appeal to centrists and undecided voters.

But that underscores the point: Democrat messaging, focusing on hot-button, highly partisan issues like abortion and gun control, is all just noise. Those are simply not the issues that will sway voters in November, no matter how much the Washington Post or Florida Democrats bang that drum.

In fact, some tracking polls and poll averages show that Republicans may have already weathered the storm on the Dobbs ruling – and overall, the trend continues to favor the GOP in November. So much for all that noise.

As for the signal? Well, it’s still the economy, stupid. But the bad news for Democrats is they don’t have a winning message on that, either.

What issues will guide your vote in November?

Voter Top-of-Mind July 2022

Voter Top-of-Mind July 2022

Which single issue will most influence your vote for a candidate on election day? *

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Deborah Coffey

    Forget abortion and guns? Wanna bet? We’re going to whip the Republican Party so badly in 2022 and in 2024, that they will never forget it. Whatever made these fascists think they could disrespect 70 and 80% of the American public and get away with it to win the votes of a small minority of bigots, racists, and fake Christians in their base? Bye, bye GQP!

    Reply

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