The first Republican presidential debate went as one would have expected. The major topics of discussion were red-meat issues for the base that each presidential candidate hopes to impress and win over. There is no question that the base is needed to win a presidential nomination. However, in order for Republicans to win the White House in 2024 they must begin to look beyond the base and communicate an effective message that will resonate with the fastest-growing voter bloc in the country: independents.
The upcoming election cycle is not going to be a friendly one for Republicans. Republicans currently have a four-seat majority in the House as a result of the predicted red wave that never came. Most Americans trust Republicans more when it comes to tackling our nation’s financial problems and strengthening our economy. Republicans must capitalize on the opportunity to alter the Washington status quo of frivolous spending, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy must be held accountable to his commitment to change our nation’s financial direction.
The aftermath of the Supreme Court‘s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has negatively impacted the Republican Party. Is it due to Republicans’ failure to define what Dobbs v. Jackson means moving forward? Is it due to Democrats successfully labeling Republicans as unfeeling or anti-woman? That is a discussion for another time, but it is clear that the abortion issue is not helping the Republican Party, especially in the swing states that will determine which party wins the White House in 2024.
In the last year, voters in Kansas, Wisconsin, and Ohio rejected the idea of stricter abortion laws. Abortion became the focal point for both the Wisconsin Supreme Court election and the recent Ohio vote on a constitutional amendment to increase the vote requirement to 60 percent to approve constitutional amendments. The results indicate that this is a losing battle for Republicans, and it will continue to be on the ballot for the remainder of this election cycle.
Additionally, due to their narrow majority in the House of Representatives, Republicans cannot afford to lose any incumbent seats, and they must pick up more seats among the roughly 30 swing seats that solidify the House majority every two years. However, between states like New York and South Carolina that are still redistricting several congressional seats, it is likely the results will give Democrats the advantage. Redistricting in North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia could also make it difficult for Republicans to retain their razor-thin majority.
These dilemmas place the Republican Party in a difficult situation. Is there a winning formula? If the 2022 congressional elections taught Republicans anything, it would be that they should focus their campaign efforts on financial and economic security for every American. The good news is that most independent voters in swing districts care about the state of the economy, kitchen-table issues, and more specifically their long-term retirement investments. Independent voters tend to look to Republicans to calm the economic storms and to be the adults on Capitol Hill.
In September, House Republicans have the opportunity to be hardliners on fiscal policy. They are expected to be the adults in the room, to force Democrats, amid a period of high inflation, to explain why more government spending is profitable for the country. Democrats are rarely forced to explain their positions, but this time Republicans have the American taxpayers’ support behind them to press the other side of the aisle on their reasons for continuing a limitless spending spree. FreedomWorks activists across the country are urging Republican leaders to get federal spending under control, especially spending cuts on programs that do not benefit them.
So what will House Republicans do? Will they give in to the Democrats’ demands for more spending? Or will they force Democrats to come to the table to make concessions? The GOP must capitalize on the opportunity presented to them to show independents they can make the hard decisions.
A quick review of history will tell you the most likely outcome. But it is time for Republicans to hold the line and to fight for our nation’s long-term fiscal future. Instead of saving face and making an “easy” decision that will safeguard from any blowback during reelection, the party of fiscal conservatism should fight for something bigger than elections.
If Republicans want to win the White House and majorities in both chambers of Congress, they must capitalize on a message that will win over independent voters. It would do well for House Republicans to hold the line on spending reforms, and it would be advantageous for presidential candidates to advocate for a sound economic plan that will ensure the long-term economic well-being of every American family. The key to victory is the independent voter, and the GOP must begin to shift its message accordingly if they want to continue to win elections.
Originally published in on Newsweek.com — 8/31/23 6:00 AM ET