President Joe Biden goaded Sen. Mitch McConnell at a press conference earlier this year by asking “What’s Mitch for?” It should have been a lay-up for the GOP. But that question still hasn’t been answered loudly, coherently and confidently as the midterms approach.
The now Kentucky senator is starting to manage expectations for taking back control of his chamber in November. Donors are fretting and candidates are struggling. Yet, the GOP’s argument for a return to power remains a muddled mess.
Why is quite simple. McConnell, House Leader Kevin McCarthy among others, have thus far thought it safer to run against the far-Left agenda of today’s Democrat Party than develop an alternative plan of their own.
McConnell is right to acknowledge that Senate races are a different animal. They’re state-wide, more expensive, and more complex. Former President Donald Trump’s hand-picked candidates are also underperforming.
Leadership requires a message that gives voters confidence and maintains enthusiasm.
From taxes and energy to China and the culture war, Republicans need to advance a meaningful counter narrative. They should articulate not just a vision of America if the far-left retains control of Washington, but an alternative future that keeps Americans safe, free and prosperous.
There are some truisms in politics that party leaders often like to ignore. Enough swing voters to make a difference in a marginal seat will vote for “the devil they know” over someone with a negative, nebulous message. People also give credit to politicians who have a transparent set of plans and ideas. Voters like candidates who are for something not just against something.
The beltway GOP line of thinking is, the more you say, the more the opposition can attack you. GOP leaders have worked to take issues off the table, rather than give Democrats more to shoot at. That may have some merit, but voters ultimately see it as a cop out.
Trump, for all his flaws, knew enough to tap into the anxiety and frustration of people who feel like they’ve been left behind by the system. Newer voices within the party consequently speak to the needs of blue-collar workers, the middle-class and minority communities more effectively than McConnell has ever been able to do.
It’s not in his political DNA. What voters often see is too cold, too calculating and too distant to have a strong emotional impact on the electorate.
You can’t picture McConnell making his case to a room full of women, meeting with Latino leaders or walking through a housing project. You can’t picture McCarthy, with his perfectly coiffed hair, getting into the muck on a construction site.
That, however, is exactly where the Republican Party needs to go and who they must address to make the so-called red wave a reality.
With the passage of the phony Inflation Reduction Act, Democrats will finally have a record to run on in November. Between that and the typical abortion fearmongering we’ve come to expect from the Left, they’re getting far more comfortable with their message.
President Joe Biden, sidelined by COVID and away on vacation, has seen his poll numbers edging up. Gas prices have dropped every week since June. Extending student loan forbearance or forgiveness, will be another carrot for Democrats to offer the undecideds.
If Republicans can’t come up with a specific, proactive, pro-freedom and pro-security agenda that helps them meet expectations this year, watch out — 2024 is going to be a mess.
Tom Basile is the Host of ‘America Right Now’ on Newsmax, author, columnist and former Bush administration official.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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