Republicans are looking for a “reset” on their 2022 campaign, which means they’re probably whipping up tales of a new migrant caravan at this very moment. Once confident of their 2022 prospects—House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy predicted that his party would gain 60 seats in the House—Republicans are now searching for a message that will stick and worrying about money.
Gas prices and inflation were going to be the message, but then gas prices started dropping and months later, haven't stopped. As a result, The Washington Post reports, “About 1 in every 6 ads mentioned ‘gas prices’ in July, but only 1 percent of ads mentioned the words in early September, according to AdImpact data.” Instead, Republicans have turned to “crime” as the key talking point for their ads, with 29% of Republican ads now mentioning crime, up from 12% in July. And when Republicans are talking about crime, you know the ugly racist dog whistles are going to be blowing furiously.
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Democrats, meanwhile, are hammering on an issue Republicans claimed no one really cared about: abortion. It turns out people really care, and they’re hearing about it in 1 out of 3 Democratic campaign ads. Polls show the number of people who say abortion is a key factor in their voting decisions is rising, and voter registration numbers show young people and women are newly motivated.
Messaging isn’t the only Republican problem, though. They’re also struggling with money, particularly on the Senate side. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), led by Sen. Rick Scott, raised huge amounts of cash early in the cycle only to blow most of it, leading to a lot of backbiting among Republicans.
The criticism has gotten so intense that Scott lashed out in a memo to donors last week. “Any so-called Republican who aids and abets the enemy is in fact trying to defeat Republican candidates and is a traitor to our cause,” he wrote. “But these small people will not win.”
It doesn’t make you look like a strong leader and likely winner when your message to donors is about infighting and the fact that a lot of people in your own party think you are doing a terrible job.
But to be fair, while Scott’s NRSC has been the biggest story about Republican money woes, it’s not the only one. Republicans more generally saw an online fundraising drop-off from the first quarter of 2022 to the second—and their efforts to blame that on inflation ran into the harsh reality that Democrats were not experiencing similar drop-offs. Additionally, vampire billionaire Peter Thiel has turned off the money spigot after spending tens of millions of dollars in Republican primaries that left the party with seriously weak candidates in Arizona and Ohio. Arizona is one of the top Republican pickup opportunities, but Blake Masters’ history of extreme anti-abortion rhetoric is a cudgel for Democrats, and his efforts to backtrack on abortion just make him look dishonest as well as extremist. Ohio, which Donald Trump won by 8 points, should not be a question mark, but J.D. Vance is giving Republicans reason to worry.
It’s fun to watch Republicans struggling, but struggling Republicans tend to go even harder on ugliness and hate. That makes the coming months a scary time for the vulnerable communities they’ll be attacking and for anyone who wants the United States to be a more just and less hateful place.
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Republican leaders are sounding very worried about their party's Senate prospects
Going into the midterms, Democrats can be seriously grateful that Rick Scott is on the other side
Republicans confront massive drop-off in online fundraising