The GOP’s Closing Message? It May Just Be Crime

There is a very noticeable rise in violence and crime across the country. In various metropolitan areas, you have officers simply leaving the force due to overwhelming crime waves, lack of prosecution, and exhaustion from the “Defund the Police!” and other demonizing rhetoric. Politicians ranging from prosecutors to mayors are facing recall efforts because of how their cities have deteriorated.

This is, I think, part of the reason why the midterm polling is shifting back to the GOP. There was a honeymoon period toward the end of the summer where the Democrats were getting high-profile things done, there were no major disasters looming, and gas prices were going down. Biden’s approval has gone up, eliminating a chunk of that 20-point underwater mark. But people don’t feel safe anymore. They don’t feel safe economically and they don’t feel safe personally. They are worried about their families in more ways than one.

That seems to be why the GOP has pivoted in recent weeks to more “soft on crime” accusations against Democrats. Even Mehmet Oz, who is still the most likely swing state Republican candidate to lose, is focusing more on John Fetterman’s soft on crime approach and drifting away from the “he’s scared to debate me” rhetoric.

Republicans are within striking distance in Arizona and Nevada, and there is still some GOP spending happening in even deep blue House seats. In Arizona and Nevada, immigration is a major concern, and the federal government has (finally) confirmed that we have seen more than 2 million immigrants that we know of who have crossed the border this year. The border is being overwhelmed, and American states along the border and throughout the south are feeling it.

Georgia, meanwhile, is shaping up to be a total loss for Democrats. Stacey Abrams does not appear to have a chance to be governor, and the polling has been shifting more and more in Herschel Walker’s favor for the Senate. Abrams attacked law enforcement in the past and Atlanta, the biggest city in the state, has seen huge chunks of its police force up and quit after the city’s leadership refused to defend them and support them.

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The GOP’s message is clear: The crime waves you’re seeing? The flood of immigrants into your states and communities? That’s on the Democrats.

But the Democrats have been so focused on the social and cultural issues like sexual identity, abortion, and climate change that they have let the GOP dominate the conversation. With weeks left until the midterm elections, they are only now trying to counter the crime and immigration message.

An uptick in crime over the last two years, coupled with a spike in Republican-sponsored TV ads attacking Democrats on public safety, has pushed the issue to the forefront of the midterms. Inflation and abortion still dominate on the campaign trail, but crime and public safety are rising as issues: Mentions of crime in GOP TV ads doubled over the last month to 18 percent of all Republican ads launched in that time, according to an analysis by AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm.


Some Democrats are already deploying a similar strategy to defuse crime as a GOP attack on them, starting with President Joe Biden. Last month, Biden sought to wrest the moral high ground on crime from “MAGA Republicans,” arguing in one speech in Pennsylvania: “Don’t tell me you support law enforcement if you won’t condemn what happened on [January] 6th,” citing the insurrection on the Capitol. He condemned calls for “defunding the FBI,” after federal investigators searched former President Donald Trump’s estate for classified documents.

Tying gun safety, crime and law enforcement together aims “to reset that narrative” that have traditionally put Democrats on the defense, said Charlie Kelly, a senior political adviser to Everytown. That was especially true in 2020, when slogans like “defund the police,” which were popular among activists on the left but not among voters in general, were wielded against Democrats in races around the country.

The problem is that voters see crime as a major issue and Republicans enjoy a 23 percent advantage in polling asking which party is more trusted to handle the crime situation.

Another huge boon for the Republicans is that the immigration stories are drowning out the stories surrounding Trump and the FBI. The huge focus on the Mar-a-Lago raid and Trump’s response coincide with Democrats’ better fortunes in polling in August. But now that the immigration and crime issues are dominating headlines again, voters are changing their focus. And with today’s expected announcement that the Federal Reserve will be raising the interest rate again, the economic safety Americans want to feel again will also be on voters’ minds.

These are the issues that continue to plague voters and, in turn, plague the party in power because the party in power is being held responsible for all the problems voters are experiencing.

So while Democrats may outwardly be bullish, there’s a very real chance that they are extremely nervous behind the scenes.