Keller @ Large: As election nears, economy and inflation become bigger issues than abortion

BOSTON — There are just three weeks until the midterm elections, a time when candidates and parties are beginning to make their closing arguments. An event Tuesday in Washington with President Biden was a reminder of the political dilemma facing the party in power.

“I ask the American people to remember how you felt the day the extreme Dobbs decision was taken and Roe was overthrown after 50 years,” he said at a rally of abortion rights supporters.

As the campaign enters its final stages, why did the President focus on abortion rights?

Think back to the impact of the fall of Roe v. Wade on the CBS Battleground poll in late August. The GOP lead in generic congressional polls was shrinking at the time “largely because of the abortion issues, and that speaks to what this campaign is about,” said CBS researcher Anthony Salvanto.

The backlash burned hot, igniting a fire among Democratic campaigners. But fast forward eight weeks and it’s a different story.

Reviewing mid-October poll numbers, Salvanto was asked what happened to Democratic momentum, which now appears to have faltered at best. “It came down to this: worsening of the view of the economy,” he said.

And other polls corroborate CBS’ findings. A new Siena College/New York Times poll finds that the economy and inflation now far outpace abortion as the issue of voters matters most, even among women.

No wonder GOP attack ads across the country are focused on economic issues. “Look what Maggie Hassan and Joe Biden did to us,” says the narrator of a recent Mitch McConnell PAC ad. “Higher heating costs when temperatures drop.”

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Border issues and taxes are troubling Republicans. Abortion rights and threats to democracy have revived the democratic base. But with the cost of living being the dominant closing issue, maximizing voter turnout becomes a necessity.

No wonder Biden admonished his audience today: “Vote, vote, vote!”

And consider this: Democrats argue that rising inflation was caused by supply problems and global factors like the invasion of Ukraine. And according to the latest CBS poll, voters agree, with solid majorities blaming these issues for this mess. But 47% also blame democratic politics. Biden’s economic moves are the second most cited reason for high gas prices. And only 32% believe the government is doing everything it can to fight inflation.

When swing voters vote with these beliefs, Democrats are in trouble.

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