GOP should ditch business-centered economic message

Without the distraction of social issues, the GOP could start winning national elections again. Such is the dream of establishment Republicans and the elite class.

Take for example billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star of the hit show, “Shark Tank.”

{mosads}”If you stay out of social issues, then the conversation from that side will only be about economics, and business, and growing business, and ideas. It should be easy!”

The biggest problem with this strategy, also known as the “truce strategy” on social issues, is that Democrats end up dominating the narrative and cast even the most socially moderate candidates as radical.

But what if social issues aren’t the problem? What if the Republican business-centered economic message is being rejected by the bulk of persuadable voters?  The GOP theme “we built that” and the GOP’s “truce” on social issues didn’t play well for Republicans in 2012.

If only there was an example of the real life scenario of the “truce strategy” playing out, again, in this election cycle. Lucky for us, we have a clear example of the truce strategy playing out in the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina.

While groups like Women Speak Out PAC and the Susan B. Anthony List have made extensive efforts to influence voters in North Carolina on the issue of abortion, the candidates themselves have opted to focus primarily on the economy and have avoided fighting on the social issues.

In July, the Wall Street Journal uncovered a new strategy from Emily’s List, the largest pro-abortion political organization in America, to evolve the “War on Women” to focus on economic and education issues, instead of only focusing on abortion.

Incumbent Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Sen. Kay Hagan, has followed this model.

The words “abortion” and “choice” are absent from Hagan’s issues page on her website. Instead, she has focused on pay equality, the Violence Against Women Act, ensuring equality of health care between genders, and only made a brief mention of the Hobby Lobby case in order to address access to contraception.  Additionally, not a single one of her television ads focused on abortion. 

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Thom Tillis has followed suit.

When asked by the New Yorker about abortion, Tillis punted and told them that he didn’t plan on doing much federally regarding abortion, but instead planned to make sure that the “government doesn’t impede [a] states’ right to make that decision.” He also has not aired any commercials focused on abortion.

Shying away from social conservatism in North Carolina is a new and somewhat odd strategy.

In 2012, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage by margin of 61 percent to 39 percent, which is nearly a 2-1 margin. The idea that it would hurt the Republican Party to fight on the issue of marriage after this referendum is at best illogical and at worst political sabotage. 

With social issues, like abortion, out of the way, what issues are being discussed between the two candidates?

Hagan has focused on raising the minimum wage, equal pay for women, and closing the skills gap through better education and training. In her ad entitled “Punches”, Hagan talks about creating jobs and an “economy that works for everyone.” Her message centers around helping middle class families and workers – i.e. “real people.”

Tillis has focused on creating certainty for “job creators” and business by balancing the budget and getting rid of Obamacare. He has highlighted his life, from having worked his way up from being a paperboy to becoming a partner at IBM, and has tried to tie Hagan to Obama, especially regarding foreign policy (ISIS), the stimulus, and Obamacare.

Without social issues the Republican candidate is on the winning side, right?

Wrong. Out of the last 19 polls, Hagan has led in 14. Tillis has led by only one point in only two of the polls. The other three polls showed the race tied.  

Now, Tillis could still win, and for the sake of throwing Harry Reid out of power, I hope he does. But even without the “distraction” of social issues from the candidates, it seems as if the GOP’s business-centered economic message is the larger problem. To connect with voters, the GOP should evolve their economic message from being business-centered to being people-centered.

Schilling is the Executive Director of American Principles in Action, a conservative advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

Tags Harry Reid Kay Hagan

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