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Peter Morici: Republicans can’t win in 2022 without a national platform

The GOP faces a tough road to win majorities in both the House and Senate. It needs a comprehensive platform and consistent messaging to shift attention from former President Donald Trump. 

Republicans can point to history—the party of the incumbent president has lost an average of 26 House seats and currently the Democrats’ advantage is only eight. However, President George W. Bush followed a scandal-ridden and impeached predecessor and picked up seats in both chambers in 2002.


The GOP needs to take a page from its past—Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America—and offer a coherent national platform to focus attention on their candidates, particularly for open and swing seats.

Congressional math

In the evenly divided Senate, the Republican Party is defending 20 seats of the 34 up for election, and five Republicans are retiring. The Democratic seats up for grabs are mostly in places unfriendly to the GOP—the Northeast, West Coast and Illinois.

Trump’s continued public presence and claims that the 2020 election was stolen terribly complicates matters. He remains popular with the Republican base but will prove a significant liability with swing voters.

President Joe Biden may not be an exciting leader but will be able to point to a strong economy. And enhanced social benefits if his party hangs together and pushes through even just parts of his legislative agenda.

Still, all may not be rosy.

Capitalizing on what voters don’t like

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reassures us that accelerating inflation is transitory, but it’s really tough to call with so much pent-up demand challenging stretched supply chains and a tight labor market. Rising gas prices and eroding purchasing power for those voters whose incomes don’t quickly adjust to the cost of living provides an attack point for the GOP.


Attacking easy-money policies and promoting a sound currency could be a winning issue. 

More broadly, Republicans need to capitalize on what voters don’t like about the Biden agenda—his border policy and opposition to voter IDs—or where Democrats may be otherwise vulnerable—higher crime rates in cities where the Justice Department imposes consent decreesDC statehood, and packing the Supreme Court.

The president will campaign that his genuine infrastructure spending, which will likely become law this year, is creating blue-collar jobs. And expanding the Child Tax Credit, more funding for child-care centers, and taxing the wealthy could be issues in his column.

So far, the GOP has offered to do less than the president (for example, on infrastructure spending); or ducked the issue (no credible offer on his manufacturing and worker-training proposals), or simply opposed Biden (taxes on the wealthy).

Take a page from Newt

The GOP needs to take a page from its past—Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America—and offer a coherent national platform to focus attention on their candidates, particularly for open and swing seats.

Americans are cautious about big spending and inflation hits hardest on lower-income Americans—attacking easy-money policies and promoting a sound currency could be a winning issue.  

The president has a crisis on the border, because he is hostage to the left and refuses to articulate a policy that requires immigrants to enter America legally. Hammering reforms to correct sordid border conditions is the best way to lay bare that progressives don’t have a monopoly on compassion.

The same applies to Biden’s bad ideas about reforming immigration laws. A greater tilt toward the needs of employers for highly skilled immigrants to boost growth, incomes and employment opportunities for all Americans may be something the Democratic left and Biden’s ideological economic team can’t embrace, but it is not beyond the understanding of suburban voters who have immigrant STEM colleagues and neighbors.  

Highlighting the success stories of immigrants who would form the prototype of a skill-enhanced quota system could be made a winning GOP issue too.

Some of the social programs Biden wants are inevitable—globalization, technology and monopolization are driving inequality to politically unacceptable levels—and embracing Sen. Mitt Romney’s proposal to enhance CTC makes sense. More direct aid to parents to pay for child care or care for children at home are winners.

Those can be supported with modest adjustments to the corporate and capital-gains tax. For example, the revenue maximizing capital-gains rate is 28%, not the current 23.8%, indicating such an increase won’t much sour investment spending and R&D or sink stocks
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Embracing those positions and writing and repeating talking points on them in unison would require compromise for many incumbent Republicans, but the Democrats consistently exhibit that kind of flexibility and discipline. That’s why they dominate the national conversation on fairness and the economy and could still prevail in 2022.

Peter Morici is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

More commentary from Peter Morici

Biden’s tax policies would harm investment, jobs, and innovation

Biden’s deficits are creating a sugar-high economy

Bidenomics may end in tears

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