“Ashley Pratte Oates, an Independent and a former Republican, is a communications strategist and a board member of Republican Women for Progress (which endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020). Previously she was director of media relations and a consultant for Better for America. The views expressed in this commentary belong to the author. View more opinion at CNN.”
Ashley Pratte Oates
According to a newly released Reuters/Ipsos poll, 53% of Americans said they approved of Biden’s job performance six months into his presidency, compared to Trump’s 38% approval rating at the same point in his presidency. In May, an AP/NORC poll found that for the first time in four years a majority of Americans (54%) said that the country was headed in the right direction, signaling a significant victory for the Biden administration.
While it might be easier for Republicans to ignore the achievements and broad approval of the Biden administration, this will ultimately hurt the GOP in the 2022 midterm elections and show just how out of touch it is with the American people. Painting a picture of America in crisis just doesn’t reflect the state of the country right now. The Biden administration has made significant progress with Covid-19 vaccinations, and despite the threat of new variants the country has largely reopened. Republican leaders can continue to rail on about the state of the economy and the Democratic socialist agenda, but looking at the polling figures their discontentment doesn’t accurately reflect the sentiment of most Americans.
It’s no secret that the GOP is struggling in the wake of Trump’s election loss with only 24% of Americans identifying as Republican. And a clear leader has not yet emerged from the field to offer an alternative to Trump — without which the GOP will remain on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of American favorability.
Biden still hasn’t found his footing on these issues
In order for the GOP to move forward and win elections, the party should stop stoking the outrage machine and start crafting a real policy agenda that counters the Biden administration and wins the support of moderate and independent voters.
Sure, the Biden administration is focusing heavily on a progressive agenda, but he is also strategically focused on the independents that also won him the election. He has traveled to the Midwest and other swing states to highlight his American Families Plan, tout the progress that has been made in fighting the pandemic, and connect with voters on his hallmark bipartisan infrastructure plan. Gallup polling shows a surge in independents leaning toward the Democratic Party. By focusing on those Americans, Biden is ensuring that Democrats have a significant chance at retaining control of the House and Senate in 2022, especially if his approval rating continues to hover over 50%.
Instead of trying to win the independent vote, however, the GOP appears to be doubling down on its base of loyal Trump supporters.
This is a grave mistake. Independents were fairly evenly split in 2016, with 42% voting for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, compared to 43% that went for Trump. In 2020, however, independents made a dramatic shift, with 52% voting for Biden, compared to 43% that supported Trump. This 10-point difference between 2016 and 2020 shows Biden made significant inroads with this crucial voting bloc.
What’s more, 44% of Americans now call themselves independents, compared to 24% who identify as Republican and 30% as Democrats. Independent voters have a history of determining the outcome of elections and it’s imperative that Democrats continue to focus on this voting bloc if they want to hold on to their power.
Whichever party captures the independent voting bloc is likely to come out on top in the 2022 midterm elections. So far Democrats are winning the messaging war with their focus on bipartisanship, while Republicans are still stoking outrage without offering any real solution or path forward.