Issues That Affect the Moderate Voter
With less than three weeks until election day, candidates are making their final pushes to reach undecided voters while voters are focusing on making their final decisions. While most states are leaning left or right, there are a handful of ‘outlier’ states that appear to be ready to split their votes between Republicans and Democrats. The dynamics of these states tell us what issues and politics are important to the moderate voter.
This year 26 states have both Governor and U.S. Senate races on the ballot. Six states are making headlines because the candidates slated to win those offices are from opposing parties. The starkest example of this situation is the Vermont election. Republican Governor Phil Scott is up 17 points against his Democrat opponent, Brenda Siegal. However, Vermont voters are likely to send Democrat candidate Peter Welch to the U.S. Senate. In fact, he is up 34 points in his race and garnered 38,000 more votes than his opponent in the primary.
Several other states — New Hampshire, Kansas, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona — are seeing similar dynamics but with much closer margins. In a nation where politics are becoming increasingly partisan, it seems mind-boggling to people who live outside those states. How could someone vote for a Republican in one office and Democrat in another? Researchers have investigated this question and the answers give us an idea about the key issues and dynamics that are currently influencing these voters.
Many years ago, election analysis website FiveThirtyEight introduced the concept of ‘elastic states.’ An ‘elastic state’ has more swing voters and independents that are more likely to change their votes depending on the political climate. All the above states, except for Georgia, have high elasticity ratings. Several factors determine the outcome in these states — current issues, party politics, and incumbency.
When voters are surveyed about the top issues influencing their votes, three topics rank higher than others. A Harvard CAPS-Harris poll released this week found that 96% of voters said inflation was an important issue with crime and immigration ranking a close second and third in order of importance. They also found that these issues benefit Republicans more than Democrats. Republicans generally take firm stances on promoting fiscal responsibility, cracking down on crime, and securing the border. Because of the Biden Administration’s lack of principled responses to the border crisis and extreme government spending, Republicans have been handed a much better chance of winning in November.
Another issue that seems to be in limbo is abortion. After the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision clarified there is no Constitutional right to abortion, states regained the ability to legislate in this area. According to the Harvard poll, a majority of voters said it was an important issue. The level of importance and the position of the voters on what government should do varies from state to state and even district to district. President Biden recently trumpeted pro-abortion rights as a tactic to motivate his voters to go to the polls. During a speech at a Democrat National Committee event, he promised to send a bill to Congress to codify Roe v. Wade if voters elect more Democrats to both chambers. With the current predictions of Democrats losing their majorities in both chambers and the Senate failing twice in the last year to pass a codification of Roe, his statement is nothing more than an empty promise meant to energize his pro-abortion base.
It’s important to note that not every Republican is a true conservative. In the Vermont race mentioned earlier, Republican Gov. Phil Scott is fiscally conservative but a liberal on cultural issues. He has not raised taxes and has taken a calculated approach on state spending. However, he is pro-choice, mandated gender-neutral bathrooms throughout the state, and opposed Trump-era immigration policies. Governor Chris Sununu from New Hampshire is also a more liberal Republican. Since inflation is a key issue going into the elections, it’s no surprise that moderate voters from these states will choose the more fiscally responsible candidates who also support more liberal social issues.
Policy issues aside, a big factor in any race is incumbency. Almost every Governor and Senator predicted to win in these six states is an incumbent. In 2020, the overall nationwide incumbency win rate was an overwhelming 93%. Voters are more likely to vote for someone who already has name recognition, an established voting record, and who they voted for previously. While this is good news for some, for those voters who live in Democrat-secure districts, it can seem hopeless. Good challengers can upset the status quo by elevating voices that are often ignored and motivating more voters to head to the polls. The effects may be slow, but over time they can weaken an incumbent’s chances of reelection. Redistricting after the decennial census, as is the case this year, influences the power of incumbency as well.
Even if your mind is made up about the candidates on your ballot, you may have friends and family who are still undecided. Perhaps they don’t fall completely in ideological lockstep with either party. Talk to them about important pro-family issues and how conservatives are more likely to enact policies that make our economy stronger and our families safer. You can find resources on just about every issue on our website at www.eagleforum.org.
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