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In a recent political ad titled “Blame Washington,” a Senate candidate blames economic hardship on politicians who “made the rules, weakened the supply chain and drove up inflation.”
The announcement came not from a Republican, but from Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate running for the Senate in the midterm elections. His ad, which blames politicians, Washington and even the Democratic Party currently in control of Congress and the White House, is far from an aberration in recent political ads.
More than a dozen political ads from around the country reviewed by Fox News Digital show Democratic candidates campaigning as independent of their own party leaders, with some even highlighting how they opposed President Biden’s agenda.
“I stood up to some members of my own party and pushed to lower the gas tax and hire more police,” Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., said in an announcement launched in July. Kildee, like others, votes with Biden 100%, but his announcement and others point to a trend many Democrats are embracing toward a midterm cycle that historically does not favor the ruling party.
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“I don’t know how to interpret that other than that’s how they’re hedging their bet that Biden’s numbers aren’t going to improve,” veteran GOP publicist John Brabender told Fox News Digital.
Biden’s approval ratings have been low year-to-date, and while there are still months to go until Election Day Nov. 8 for recent legislative successes on the PACT Act, CHIPS Act and science , and the climate, medicare, and tax bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act to potentially regain popularity.
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Brabender thinks most Democrats won’t discuss the Cut Inflation Act unless the economic outlook improves significantly. “Legislation only matters if people see an immediate impact, and if they don’t see it, people are going to say ‘what legislation? ‘” Brabender said.
Inflation is a common theme in many political ads. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, introduced himself in an August ad as “an independent voice,” who was “the only Democrat to vote against President Biden’s trillion-dollar agenda, because I knew that. would aggravate inflation.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, DN.H., also emphasized fiscal responsibility in a recent ad, saying she was balancing New Hampshire state budgets while cutting taxes, and even “worked with Republicans to reduce billions of unnecessary expenses”.
The independent approach that many Democrats are taking should come as no surprise, according to Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor Ken Walling.
“Every election cycle you’ll see many incumbent Democrats and Republicans running against Washington,” Walling told Fox News Digital. “There’s a reason the overall approval rating in Congress hovers around dentists and exterminators as a profession, while individual members of Congress have higher individual approval ratings in the district.”
Walling also sees the message as a return to the populist Democrat — after years of former President Trump delivering a message from the “swamp” of Washington, DC, that is making life worse for everyday Americans.
“I think what you also see is Democrats picking up on the populist message of their GOP counterparts – something Donald Trump ran in 2016, becoming a perceived champion of the American working class despite the fact that he be a billionaire,” Walling said.
FETTERMAN BLASTS WASHINGTON, HIGHLIGHTS NON-Partisan SOLUTIONS, IN NEW ANNOUNCEMENT IN CRUCIAL RACE FOR PENNSYLVANIA SENATE
Fetterman and Ohio Democratic Senate candidate Tim Ryan are most effective in this regard, according to Walling, “painting their GOP challengers in the Senate as out-of-touch millionaires, really hitting that populist tone when it comes to inflation and of jobs”.
Ryan has been in the news all summer for running ads touting his deal with Trump on a few issues, like trade and reinvigorating American manufacturing — something similar to Fetterman’s proposal to fix the economy. : “Make more things in America”.
Democrats toying with Republicans can help prove that they are independent-minded. A recent ad by Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., shows two mayors, a Republican and a Democrat, expressing their support for the incumbent, who voted with Biden 100% of the time: “She got five bills signed. by Biden, eight by Trump.”
“They can’t exactly say they’re in line with Republicans, but they certainly say a lot that they’re bipartisan and independent, and put their state and districts first. And that’s code for, ‘I don’t run me with Biden for sure,” Brabender said.
In a recent spot, Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., highlights how she “stood up her own party” to prevent congressional salary increases, and how she “worked with Republicans and Democrats to stand up to China and curb inflation.”
Perhaps the strongest ad opposition to Democrats and Biden himself came from Rep. Nancy Kaptur, D-Ohio, on Friday, where a narrator says, “Joe Biden is letting Ohio’s solar makers be undermined by the China, but Marcy Kaptur fights back.” The narrator states that Kaptur does not work for Biden, but “works with Republican Rob Portman, protecting our jobs”.
REP. DEMOCRATIC MARCY KAPTUR ALL ‘FIGHTING’ AGAINST BIDEN WEEKS AFTER KISSING HIM ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL
The strategy of running against the national party, while still aiming to keep that party in power, is not new — and could help attract middle voters who aren’t strong Democratic or Republican voters.
“Politics is a game of addition, not subtraction, so if blue team candidates can appeal to the middle and bring in soft independents and Republicans, which they did in 2018, you might see a very different election night than forecasters are predicting,” Walling said.
Brabender, however, is skeptical that attempts to alienate the individual Democrat from the national party will work, especially if voters are generally dissatisfied with the economy. This amounts, in his mind, to a message of “don’t hold me hostage to Biden and the Democratic agenda.”
“We’re going to find out whether people believe them or not. I think what’s going to happen is 80% are going to vote in the direction of the generic ballot,” he said. This is the “red wave” effect where voters can choose to reject Democrats because they are currently in power.
VULNERABLE HOUSE DEMOCRATS DEFEND VOTE ON IRS CUT INFLATION AND EXPANSION ACT
There has been good news for Democrats in recent weeks, following the Democrats’ successful passage of several major bills. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in particular has touted the Cut Inflation Act as a victory for Americans. Walling thinks Democrats’ negative vote should certainly be based on the law’s success, further underscoring the medical savings portion of the bill.
“Democrats should absolutely campaign on the Cut Inflation Act, and you’re going to see the President, his cabinet, and Democratic House and Senate leaders taking that message down the road in the days and weeks to It’s important to 13 million Americans that Democrats alone extended their ACA subsidies, saving them an average of $2,400 a month It’s important that, for the first time, Medicare can negotiate the drug costs and that Americans never pay more than $2,000 a month for their prescriptions Democrats are actually cutting the deficit, something former President Trump and Republicans never did when they were in power “Walling said.
As for the more controversial parts of the bill, campaigning Democrats defended the controversial IRS provision that provides $80 billion to the agency, in part to hire 87,000 additional officers and employees over the course of of the next decade.
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For Brabender, however, the IRS portion of the bill has plenty of fodder for Republicans, and he doubts Democrats will tout the Cut Inflation Act’s passage in advertising.
“They can call it that name all they want, but they better see better economic numbers,” Brabender said.