Inflation has knocked Democrats down — but not out

Inflation hitting a record 9.1 percent was bad news for Democrats, but it could have been devastating. The blow was cushioned by the negative reaction to the reversal of Roe vs. Wade and the revelations from the Jan. 6 congressional investigatory committee that has shined the spotlight on former President Donald Trump’s role in the Capitol insurrection.

The impact of the inflation rate during June precedes polling in early July that shows Democrats holding their own in the generic trial heat. The sharp rise in the prices for gas and groceries has certainly taken its toll on President Biden’s approval rating but Democrats are still hanging tough.

A national poll conducted for The New York Times in the second week of July showed that only one in three Americans approved of the president’s performance, and three-fourths of the public thought the nation was headed in the wrong direction. These usually are signs of big trouble for the president’s party in the midterm elections. With inflation increasing and the president low in the water, Republicans should be riding high. But the same survey indicated that Democrats were basically tied with Republicans in a head-to-dead generic matchup

The big question is why Republicans failed to capitalize strongly during a month when the inflation rate was so high. The answer is in the political headwinds that challenge GOP prospects for November. The problems the Republican Party must deal with are of their own making.

The first problem the GOP has is in the negative public reaction to the Dobbs abortion decision overturning Roe that the Supreme Court rendered in June. A national poll conducted after the official release of the decision for The PBS News Hour and National Public Radio by Marist University demonstrated the degree of damage that the conservative majority of the court could do to the dreams of a GOP Congress. Most Americans disapproved of the high court’s decision to overturn Roe and dismantle a constitutionally protected right to abortion access. Almost half of the public strongly disapproved of the verdict.

Republicans have accused Democrats of using the reversal of Roe as an distraction to turn voter attention away from inflation. But reproductive justice is not an abstraction to the thousands of women whose health and well-being is in jeopardy because they are unable to receive safe abortions. The inability of women to access care based on their state of residence — even if they are victims of rape or incest or in in the first trimester of their pregnancies — could become a more dominant issue if gasoline prices continue to recede.

The continued visibility of Trump has contributed to the GOP’s failure to get a big bump in the polls while prices skyrocketed last month. Republicans want to frame the midterms as a referendum on Biden, but the disgraced ex-president keeps getting into the picture.

Even worse for his party, Trump has hinted that he may announce his candidacy for a second bid for the White House before the 2022 midterms. This would turn a referendum on Biden’s presidency into a choice between the president and his predecessor. This is the last thing that GOP congressional leaders want.

If that wasn’t enough, the ongoing congressional investigation of the failed Jan. 6 Capitol coup keeps Trump in the middle of the media screen when the GOP wants the focus to be fixed on the incumbent president. The ongoing House Jan. 6 committee hearings have exposed Trump’s involvement in the extremist attempt to undermine the 2020 election certification of Biden’s popular and electoral vote victory. Most Americans think the former president’s actions went too far and threatened democracy.

Meanwhile, gasoline prices have started to decline and prices at the pump are a leading indicator of other goods driven by energy costs, like groceries. The website Gas Buddy estimates that average gasoline prices which peaked just over $5.00 per gallon could go down all the way to $4.25 to $4.00 soon. Will the GOP be able to keep the heat on Democratic congressional candidates as gas prices continue to decline?

Inflation has knocked Democrats down but not out. The Republican Party lost both the Senate and House during Trump’s failed presidency. Will Trump’s lingering shadow cast a pall over GOP prospects a big win this November?  Republicans may be kicking themselves and their self-appointed national spokesman in three months.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, “Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon,” airs on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon

Tags 2020 election 2022 midterm elections Biden Brad Bannon Donald Trump economy Inflation Joe Biden Politics White House

More Campaign News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video