Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Are Democrats Freaking Out over the Wrong Thing?

A lot of Democrats are freaking out over a Siena College poll showing Donald Trump winning five of the six most important swing states. Other polls show Biden with his lowest approval rating of his presidency and some show only a quarter of the voters wanting him to run for reelection.

Mileah Kromer, the director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics, which runs the respected Goucher College Poll, says the Democrats are setting their hair on fire over the wrong thing (the Siena poll). Many people think the country is in a recession, even though recessions normally result in unemployment and unemployment now is at a historic low. She thinks they should focus on the economy. In one poll, Trump did better on the economy than Joe Biden by 22 points.

One thing Kromer notes is that in 2015, then-Maryland-governor Larry Hogan (R) lowered the toll on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. People saw a cost go down and they loved it. Democrats derided it as short-term thinking that would hurt the state budget and create maintenance problems on the bridge later on. But the voters loved it. Focus groups years later asked people why they liked Hogan and the most common answer was: "He cut tolls." Democrats hate to do things that they know are unsustainable and will cause problems down the road, but what should they do when the voters love them?

Sometimes Democrats are into tricks as well. In 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) used an auto insurance bill to issue a $400 refund per vehicle to every insured Michigan driver. It was very popular, even if it wasn't economically wise. Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY) froze vehicle property taxes. Giving people free money is always a political winner in the short term. Cutting taxes is also a winner, except that cutting the services the taxes pay for is never a winner and cutting taxes and not cutting services drives inflation, which is also not a winner. What the voters really want is a free lunch.

But the lesson from Hogan, Whitmer, and Beshear may be that cutting or freezing very visible costs and possibly increasing less visible costs to make up for it might work. But Democrats tend to see that as trying to trick the voters, something they don't really like to do. One thing that they could do next time they get the trifecta is lower taxes for people making under, say, $400,000 and increase taxes above that to compensate (or even bring in more). (V)

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