Republicans Presidential Hopefuls Get a Second Chance to Focus on Bidenflation
Can Republican presidential hopefuls make the case against Bidenflation in this Wednesday’s GOP primary debate at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley?
The gaggle of Republican politicians who participated in the first GOP debate notoriously had almost nothing to say about inflation. Even economic policy more broadly barely made the cut with those on the debate stage or the moderators overseeing the event in Milwaukee.
The word “inflation” was uttered just seven times during the first GOP primary debate, according to Marketwatch’s count. The economy was mentioned 22 times, but there was very little substantial policy offered. Spending came up 19 times, but here too the Republicans seemed content to grouse rather than offer much in the way of alternatives to Biden’s spending.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina made a reference to “16 percent inflation” coupled with laments about the rising price of gasoline, food, and electricity. Former Vice President Mike Pence brought up inflation in his closing remarks—almost as an afterthought. Same with Nikki Haley. Governors Doug Burgum (R-ND) and Ron DeSantis (R-FL) brought up energy prices and the failure of Biden’s energy policy.
Ukraine, on the other hand, merited 23 mentions. Donald Trump, who declined to attend the event in Milwaukee and will not be at this week’s debate in California, came up 23 times as well.
We described this as an example of the Republicans trying to live up to the John Stuart Mills’ description of British Conservatives as “the stupidest party.”
Bidenflation Is the Issue of 2024
There should be no doubt that inflation and the economy are key weaknesses of President Joe Biden’s bid for a second term. In the latest polling from The Economist and YouGov, just 40 percent say they approve of Biden when it comes to “jobs and the economy,” with 53 percent disapproving. When it comes to inflation, just 33 percent give Biden their approval, and 60 percent say they disapprove, including 48 percent who strongly disapprove.
The only other issue that comes close in terms of disapproval for Biden is immigration, where 43 percent say they strongly disapprove of the president and another 16 percent somewhat disapprove.
When pollsters ask how important inflation is as an issue right now, a jaw-dropping 76 percent say “very important” and another 20 percent say “somewhat important.” Jobs and the economy also come in as important for 96 percent of the public, although the “very important” share is slightly lower at 70 percent, and the “somewhat” share is slightly higher at 23 percent.
The poll also asks what the most important issue is. Twenty-four percent of Americans say it is inflation. The nearest ranking issues are health care, climate change, and jobs and the economy, each at nine percent. In other words, if you take the three next most important issues after inflation, they barely add up to more than inflation alone.
Republican Voters Are Really Upset with Bidenflation
Of course, this is a contest for the favor of Republican primary voters. So, let’s look at GOP opinion on this. The Economist/YouGov poll shows 90 percent of Republicans say inflation is “very important.“ That puts it above taxes and spending, national security, and jobs and the economy—each of which scores as “very important” with 83 percent or fewer Republicans.
Thirty-four percent of Republicans say inflation is the top issue. That’s more than jobs and the economy (9 percent), immigration (13 percent), and taxes and government spending.
You will not be surprised to learn that Republicans disapprove of Biden on the issue of inflation. The Economist/YouGov poll shows 93 percent of Republicans expressing disapproval, unevenly divided between 84 percent strongly disapproving and nine percent somewhat disapproving.
Inflation Is Everywhere
It should not be hard for the Republicans on stage at this Wednesday’s debate to bring attention to inflation. On issue after issue, Republicans can point to inflation as a big part of the problem.
Labor unrest? Inflation is at the heart of the United Auto Workers union strike against General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis.
Foreign affairs? Inflation is being driven higher by rising fuel prices—which are helping fund Russia’s war in Ukraine and are in large part the result of Biden’s Green New Deal and anti-fossil fuel energy policies.
Federal Budget deficit? Not only did Biden’s deficit spending spree cause inflation to rise much higher than it would have post-pandemic, the Federal Reserve’s rate hikes implemented to fight inflation have pushed up the cost of financing our deficits. The government is paying higher interest rates, pushing the deficit up just to finance our debt.
Home affordability? Mortgage rates are at the highest they have been in more than two decades. They’ve been driven to this height by inflation and the Fed’s campaign to bring it back down.
Deteriorating roads and bridges? Inflation has made this problem much more difficult for states, cities, and towns to confront because it has pushed up the cost of materials and construction. Here’s a chart showing the cost of cement and concrete manufacturing over the past five years. Since Biden took office, the producer price index for this is up around 30 percent.
Affordability of health care? While the personal consumption price index for health care did not overheat the way the indexes for many other goods and services did, healthcare inflation hit its worst level since 2007 under Biden. What’s more, the strain that inflation across the rest of the economy has put on family budgets has made it even more difficult to pay for health care.
Everywhere Americans look, they see the effects of inflation. Republican politicians hoping to get the nod from Republican voters for the presidential nomination should show that they too can see inflation’s malevolent effects all over the place.