POLITICO Playbook: Breaking down the GOP’s midterm momentum

Politico cites CEI’s Kevin D. Williamson on midterm momentum:

We have fresh data this morning from the new POLITICO-Morning Consult poll that shows the national political landscape shifting more firmly toward the Republican Party.

Twenty days out from Election Day, voters are overwhelmingly focused on the economy and inflation, Republicans are more trusted to handle those issues, and crime beats out abortion as a second-tier issue. In our poll, as in others, the GOP has also gained on the congressional ballot test.

The poll confirms the dramatic shift from the late summer, when the Dobbs decision and declining gas prices strengthened Democrats in races across the country, to today, when the midterms seem to be returning to a more typical referendum on the incumbent president in which the party out of power makes substantial gains.

Two big issues seem to be driving the reversal:

— On abortion, ever since the Kansas referendum defeating an abortion ban, Republicans in tough races have abandoned or downplayed hardline stances and refocused attention on attacking their Democratic opponents as extreme. Neutralizing abortion has allowed many Republicans to raise the salience of crime and immigration. We saw this dynamic repeatedly in the big Senate and gubernatorial debates this week in Georgia, Ohio, Florida, and elsewhere. The White House has noticed how the Dobbs effect has faded. On Tuesday, JOE BIDEN announced that his first bill to Congress next year would be one codifying Roe.

— On the economy, recent data have continued to show that the Fed and the Biden administration have been unsuccessful in taming inflation, while their policy moves have stoked fears of an impending recession. And while gas prices, a daily real-world guage of inflation for many voters, have fallen modestly in recent days, they remain up since mid-September. Biden’s approval rating has been in near-perfect inverse sync with fluctuations in gas prices. (There’s a minus-0.80 correlation coefficient, according to the Washington Post’s Philip Bump.)

The POLITICO-Morning Consult poll shows:

— The economy and inflation are the top issues for voters. 81% say the economy will play a “major role” in their vote choice, and 80% say inflation.

— The other issues we tested track with a playing field tilting toward the GOP. 64% of voters cited crime as a “major issue,” while 59% cited abortion, 57% cited gun policy and 55% cited immigration.

— Voters are more likely to trust Republicans in Congress on the economy. Forty-six percent trust Republicans more vs. 39% for Democrats.

— A majority (61%) of voters believe inflation in the U.S. economy is getting worse.

— Republicans have gained on the congressional ballot since last week. The Democratic advantage shifted from 46%-42% to 45%-44%.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Kevin Williamson is joining the Competitive Enterprise Institute as writer in residence. He is national correspondent of The Dispatch and is a National Review alum.

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