What Should the GOP's Closing Argument Be?

AP Photo/Akili-Casundria Ramsess

In just under two months, voters will go to the polls to cast their vote in federal races across the country.

There is a growing concern among Republicans that the Democrats are making a comeback. Their fears are based on three facts.

  1. Polling is showing a Democratic surge.
  2. There are low-quality candidates running under the GOP banner.
  3. Trump’s microphone is getting bigger again.

Whatever you may personally feel, there is data out there that proves these fears are valid and they shouldn’t be taken lightly. By the same token, Republicans should also stop, take a deep breath, and not panic over these facts. There is positive news out there and there is a way forward for the GOP if they want to hold on to the long-touted “wave” that was speculated to be forming.

Regardless of what anyone may tell you, it is virtually certain that Republicans will take House in November. Redistricting alone will make that happen, regardless of polling or candidate quality. Most of Washington and most of the press seem to accept that. The real question is how many House seats will the GOP lead by.

The bigger problem for the GOP, however, is in the race to control the Senate. The two parties have a 50-50 split, with the advantage going to the Democrats by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote. Right now, there is some narrow polling that shows the split could prevail rather than the chamber falling into GOP control.

The polling concerns among the GOP are based on current panic and may be ignoring historical trends. Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics broke down the historical trends, noting that the current tightness we’re seeing in the polling, particularly where the Generic Congressional Ballot is concerned, may actually be indicative of a wave.


Now look at 2014 – another good Republican year. Again, leading into election year the same pattern was evident: Democrats’ consistent lead in 2013, which ballooned to more than 6 points in October, disappeared at the end of the year. Most of 2014 saw the two parties running basically even: neither side had a lead greater than 2.5% through the entire primary season; for much of that time it was less than a single point.

Democrats entered Labor Day weekend in 2014 with a 1.4% lead in the generic congressional ballot. And then things changed. Ten days after Labor Day, the GOP had shot to almost a four-point lead over the Democrats – a lead they would never relinquish. On Election Day, the GOP scored a 5.7% national vote win over the Democrats, translating to a pickup of nine Senate seats and 13 House seats.

Based on Bevan’s analysis, we may not be looking at 2010 midterm numbers – numbers that were exceedingly good for Republicans – but there is every possibility that the numbers could break back toward the GOP. The Democrats are currently riding a wave of lower gas prices, the Dobbs decision, and some legislative wins. But that excitement also appears to be fading. Biden is still vastly underwater where the economy and inflation are concerned, and those “kitchen table” economic issues that bother families most (inflation, an unstable job market, supply chain issues, and more) still have voters worried.


Individual polling from various states also shows that the Democrats may not be as strong as they themselves believe. In Georgia, Stacey Abrams hasn’t led Gov. Brian Kemp at any point, but Herschel Walker has started trending ahead of Sen. Raphael Warnock in several recent polls. In a surprise poll (though from a Republican-leaning firm, Trafalgar), the New York Governor’s race is actually closer than you might expect, with Rep. Lee Zeldin within striking distance – only five points down. Adam Laxalt in Nevada is only one point behind incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Currently, Ohio is still trending red, though J.D. Vance’s lead over Tim Ryan isn’t where Republicans would hope they would be. Blake Masters over the month of August began narrowing the gap between him and incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly.

The only race of major concern for the GOP is (and rightfully should be) Pennsylvania. But there are non-polling signs that the tide may be turning against John Fetterman, particularly after an editorial in a home state paper calling into question whether or not he would be able to stand up on the Senate floor and debate the key issues of the nation.

GOP Senate Candidate Mehmet OZ/Election 2022 Trump
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

This also should ease some of the fears about candidate quality. Yes, Republicans would like for J.D. Vance to be running further ahead of Tim Ryan in Ohio, and yes, Mehmet Oz probably should not have become the GOP candidate in Pennsylvania. If the GOP flips Georgia, for example, but loses Pennsylvania, there is still a 50-50 split. If the GOP takes Georgia and Nevada or Arizona, then you’re looking at a 51-49 advantage. There was never any chance the Republicans would get a filibuster-proof Senate, but even a one-seat advantage is an advantage.


Perhaps the biggest concern, then, for the GOP is whether or not Trump’s legal issues (and whether or not he’ll announce a run for President before the midterms) will have any sort of impact. Trump has lacked a platform since he was tossed off social media, and the media has tried very hard to keep him in as many headlines as possible. If Trump were to be indicted before the midterm, this risks motivating the GOP even more than they already are, and considering that the DOJ at best appears politically motivated in its actions of late, an indictment in the middle of an election cycle would kick fears among conservatives into overdrive, ensuring they do everything they within their power to win.

But Trump announcing a presidential bid (which seems to be more and more unlikely, considering the RNC has threatened to cut off financial assistance for legal battles if he does, and he has a lot of legal battles going right now…) would also distract from the GOP’s campaign messaging in this last stretch. It is likely, then, that the DOJ and Trump are at a statement, with neither willing to risk hurting their own side.

This all begs the question, then, as to what the GOP’s strategy should be.

In this last stretch, the GOP should be focusing on positive messaging. The Democrats are running on division and fear, as evidenced by President Joe Biden’s speech last week. That speech was seen by both sides of the political spectrum as the home stretch speech of the Democratic campaign (something, according to rumor, even Democratic strategists are quietly admitting was a bad move to make). The optics were bad and the speech was worse.


The GOP, meanwhile, can learn from Herschel Walker’s latest ad campaign in Georgia, focusing on uniting voters. As more and more voters worry about the future, Republicans should, essentially, borrow the Biden campaign’s 2020 promises of a return to normalcy and unity. They need to focus on the good in an effort to help voters feel better about the future. The Democrats offer dire warnings of the future, so the GOP should offer a sunny solution.

Right now, voters need to have their fears assuaged, if not eased entirely. The GOP is in the best position to do that, should they decide to stop the in-fighting and actually wrap up this election cycle on a high note.


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