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Independent Voters Are Wishy-Washy... But Elections Depend On Them. Which Way Are They Headed Now?

For whatever reason, in the first midterm after a presidential election, most independent voters almost always vote for the candidates of the other party. In the last 19 elections, this wasn’t the case just two times— including last year. Republican primaries had come up with such extreme right-wing candidates that independent voters chose Democrats rather than Republicans , 49-47%. But now independent voters are—as they almost always are— disgruntled and confused. They don’t like Biden at all… and they’re very wary of the Republicans in control of the House. This morning, Paul Kane, wrote about a series of focus groups of independents in Virginia, Texas and Wisconsin.

Asked about a list of House Republicans’ investigations that are kicking off now, a 64 year old voter from Virginia summed up the consensus: “Nothing on that list is going to improve my life. They are more occupied with busy work than doing anything substantial. This is all a get-even list.” If this is still the consensus a year from now, Hakeem Jeffries is going to be the first Black speaker of the House in 2024.

Polling from CNN released on Thursday showed independents disapprove of the way congressional Republicans are handling their jobs— 26% to 74%. Asked about GOP priorities, 76% agreed with the statement that House Republicans haven’t paid enough attention to the county’s most important problems. Just 24% think they’ve got it right. Among independents, just 14% have a favorable opinion of McCarthy. Kane reported that this “aligns with Republican pollster David Winston’s extensive research on the 2022 midterm elections dubbed ‘It’s the Year of the Independent,’ an 11-page rejection of both parties’ efforts to gin up their base at the expense of losing key support from independent voters who will inevitably decide the closest elections. GOP nominees, particularly in a handful of Senate races, went so far to the right that… among independent voters who ‘somewhat disapproved’ of Biden’s performance, Democrats won those voters in a rout, 52 percent to 36 percent, a stunning turnabout. ‘This was a missed opportunity for Republicans, and indicates that independents needed to hear a more substantive economic message,’ Winston, president of the Winston Group, wrote in the analysis sent to his clients, which include congressional GOP leaders… [He] viewed the 2022 midterms through the prism of scared independent voters. The Republican lost independent voters in five of the six closest Senate races, three by double-digit margins. They won just two of those races. ‘Independents wanted solutions, not the blame game,’ he wrote.”

Interestingly, Trump seems to be taking that advice more seriously than House Republicans are. This morning, Michael Bender reported that Trump has been busy doing policy videos. “Over the past six weeks on his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump has been posting videos about his policy positions, including plans to protect Social Security and Medicare and ban Chinese nationals from owning U.S. farmland or telecommunications, energy, technology or medical supply companies. The videos, in which the former president speaks directly to the camera, are aimed at reassuring supporters that he’s focused on topics other than his 2020 defeat, an issue that flopped with midterm voters.” These are left-populist positions— and very different from what congressional Republicans are doing.

Last night, Matthew Continetti, at the Free Beacon, explained why he’s bullish on Trump’s chances to win the nomination and noted that “rivals in both the Democratic and Republican parties are repeating the mistakes they made in the run-up to the 2016 election. The Democrats assume that there is no way for Trump to become president, while Republicans believe he will fade from the scene. Their failure to learn from history has made it possible not only for Trump to win the GOP nomination for the third straight time, but to pull another inside straight in the Electoral College and return to the White House. For decades, Trump has said that the political class is corrupt, insular, and incompetent, and that Republican leaders lack guts. Washington is doing its best to prove him right… At this writing, DeSantis presents the biggest obstacle for Trump. He sits atop the field in state-level polls of New Hampshire and South Carolina. He's a proven winner and fundraiser who knows when to pick high-profile cultural battles that endear him to conservatives and the MAGA crew. His crusade against wokeness is a way to unify the party behind a tough and competent executive who hasn't alienated suburban independents in his home state.”

Florida doesn’t have a functioning Democratic Party any longer— at least not outside of a handful of blue ghettos— so DeSantis has faced no cohesive, let alone effective, opposition. We’ll see how well his “crusade against wokeness”— think of what the opposite of “woke” is— goes over outside of the Republican base. And meanwhile, wrote Continetti, “other Republicans have begun to attack DeSantis. That's to be expected. No one is entitled to a party's nomination, politics ain't beanbag, and running for president ought to be, and is, an arduous task. Potential GOP candidates are probing for weaknesses in DeSantis's stance on abortion, his hardball tactics with big business, his national appeal, and his personal demeanor. Notice, though, whom these Republicans are not criticizing. His initials are DJT. As happened seven years ago, Republicans are avoiding Trump either because they believe he will pack up and go home or because they are afraid of incurring his wrath and the animosity of his most devoted supporters. They are falling back into formation as a circular firing squad that hurts everybody but the former president.”

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