Economy will determine electoral outcomes in 2022: Crain’s Juice DC Memo – Crain’s Chicago Business

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For months, Republicans have been taunting the Democrats who run Washington about the state of the economy. GOP lawmakers have hammered President Joe Biden about surging inflation and supply chain breakdowns that have been a drag on business activity.

Now, though, Democrats seem anxious to fight back. They can tout the potential benefits of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure law Biden signed earlier this month. In the short term, that means plenty of construction jobs. In the long term, that could mean shorter shipping times and broadband access, to name a few. Plus, backlogs at key ports are easing and the national unemployment rate is falling.

“While there’s still more to be done, we’ve made remarkable progress over the last 10 months in getting Americans back to work and getting our economy moving again,” Biden said Monday. The president made the comments as he announced his decision to nominate Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell for another term, and to nominate Lael Brainard as vice chair.

“I’m confident that Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard’s focus on keeping inflation low, prices stable, and delivering full employment will make our economy stronger than ever before,” Biden said.

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Likewise, U.S. Rep. Marie Newman of Illinois is touting the economy’s rebound since the onset of COVID-19. She released a report, along with Democratic members of the Joint Economic Committee, that highlights the progress the economy has made since then.

“The recovery continues despite an increase in COVID-19 cases among the unvaccinated and a rise in inflation caused by surging demand coupled with supply bottlenecks,” Newman noted in a joint statement with U.S. Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, another Democrat.

They predicted Biden’s infrastructure bill would rev up the economy. They also touted the potential of the Build Back Better Act, a bill focused on economic support and social policy changes, to do so as well.  

“These monumental investments in physical and care infrastructure will decrease inflationary pressures, address decades-old supply chain problems, and advance economic growth that is stronger, stable, and more broadly shared,” they wrote.

Newman is facing U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, a fellow Democrat, next year in a newly construed congressional district.

Casten has regularly touted the financial benefits of Biden’s agenda families. It will “will lower folks’ energy bills, reinvigorate our economy, and create millions of good-paying union jobs,” he said.

The chorus is much the same for Democrats returning to their districts for Thanksgiving break this week. Federal elections are still nearly a year away, so it’s hard to say whether Democrats will stick with the same themes through next year’s campaign.

But the focus on the economy is markedly different than the themes in the Virginia governor’s race that shook many left-leaning pundits. They’re not focusing on Donald Trump or the Jan. 6 insurrection, and they’re certainly not debating “critical race theory” or school mask mandates. Those discussions helped derail Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s failed bid there.

At the same time, though, Democrats are also not dwelling on their go-to attack on Republicans: that GOP lawmakers would jeopardize health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.  

Of course, Republicans aren’t buying Democrats’ impressions of a rosy economic picture.

“As the holidays approach, we have a border crisis threatening our national security, workforce shortages, raging inflation—raising the cost of everyday goods on all Americans—and a supply chain crisis harming our economy,” U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, a Republican from the Peoria area, said in a statement. “Instead of stepping back and working with Republicans to address the issues American families are facing, President Biden and Democrats are pressing ahead with the most radical legislative agenda in my lifetime.”

Americans right now are in a sour mood, too. Seventy percent view the current economy negatively, including 38 percent who say it’s in “poor” condition, according to The Washington Post.  

Democrats better hope voters feel better about the economy in 11 months than they do now.