What are the polls telling us, what are the issues people care most about, and where are the potential troubles areas? Noah Weinrich of Heritage Action for America joins to break it all down!
Tim Doescher: From The Heritage Foundation, I'm Tim Doescher, and this is Heritage Explains.
President Biden: It's time for boldness, for there's so much to do and this is certain. I promise you, we will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era. We will rise to the occasion is the question, will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world or our children? I believe we must. I'm sure you do as well. I believe we will. And when we do, we'll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America, the American story.
Doescher: That was President Joe Biden in 2021 at his inauguration ceremony on Capitol Hill. Biden talks about being judged for how we will resolve the cascading crises of our era. Well, if we compare where we are now to where we were back then, things look a lot different. The average American family is losing $6,000 in annual income thanks to Biden and the Democrats inflationary policies. Just look at your 401(k) and compare it to just January of this year. Devastating. Also, the term recession is in the mix and consumer and small business confidence is at all time lows. Don't forget all those ships waiting offshore, supply chain issues, empty shelves, et cetera. Then this.
Vice President Harris: We have a secure border. That is a priority for any nation, including ours in our administration.
Doescher: 2.4 million illegal crossings, 600,000 known got aways and 856 deaths at the southern border in the past year alone. And according to the FBI, crime is on the rise all over America. With violent crime up 4.3% in 2021, adding to a whopping 30% increase in the homicide in the previous year. And then there was this.
News Clip: Rushing back to Washington as dramatic indelible images emerge of panic and chaos in Kabul, President Biden tonight defiant and without regret.
President Biden: I stand squarely behind my decision.
News Clip: The President acknowledging he was wrong about how swiftly Afghanistan would fall.
President Biden: The truth is this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.
Doescher: Seems like in eternity ago, doesn't it? But let's also remember that under Biden and the Democrats, we are now spending tens of billions of dollars to fund Ukraine's defense against our enemies in Russia. But as Biden said at the top, he will be judged. And that's what this midterm election is all about. Where do we stand on all these issues? Will November be the judgment to hold our elected leaders accountable?
Doescher: Noah Weinrich is the Director of Communications for Heritage Action for America. On this episode, he goes through valuable polling that shows where we stand on crucial issues around the country and what those issues mean in light of the pending midterm election. But just as a reminder, Heritage Foundation is a 501(c)(3). We are here to educate on these issues. We do not endorse candidates. We do not endorse ballot initiatives or votes of any kind. Our reporting on this election cycle, it's intended to highlight key issues around the country and how people are responding to those issues. Let's get into it, after this.
>>> For over 35 years, The Heritage Foundation Job Bank has been helping conservatives at all professional levels find employment in key positions in Washington D.C. and across the country. We can help connect you with positions in the administration, on Capitol Hill, in public policy organizations and in the private sector. To learn more about The Heritage Foundation Job Bank, go to heritage.org/job.
Doescher: Noah Weinrich is back in the studio. It is good to see you. Thanks for being here.
Noah Weinrich: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
Doescher: Okay, we are close to the 2022 midterm election. It's all a buzz when you turn on cable news. And you and Heritage Action have been on the ground in many of the most consequential states up for election. From your perspective, Noah, give us a sense for where we stand right now. What is a main takeaway or two that you're seeing out there?
Weinrich: Absolutely. I just got back yesterday from Georgia, which just like in 2020, is one of the main battlegrounds. That's where this is going to be fought. All eyes are on the Senate. That's the big takeaway. The house races are happening, but obviously there's 435 of those and there's only 35 Senate races and only somewhere between four and 10 of them are at all competitive. All eyes are on the Senate, all eyes are on the margins there. Right now it's a 50-50 Senate. Just one pickup from either side could really change the dynamic. I think the main dynamic we're seeing is the issues. Abortion as an issue is receding. And Republicans are gaining ground on it, pointing out their opponent's extremism, but it's receding as an issue.
Doescher: Yeah. Actually, let me stop you there, because I had this as an entire category as I prepared for the interview because every center left person or non-conservative that I talked to says, "The Republicans gave the Democrats a huge issue in abortion with the Dobbs thing." I'm curious here, you're saying it's receding, but is that driving people to vote? Is that a huge issue people are concerned about or is that just hype from the media?
Weinrich: It's mostly just hype. It is a big issue and you did see a big spike after Dobbs in people's interest in abortion, them listing it as a major factor. But it's starting to recede. Dobbs is in the rear view mirror. It's decided. Now we're going forwards. Inflation is not abating. Crime is getting worse. Illegal immigration is getting worse. People have bigger concerns. In a Harvard Harris poll released last week, the top three issues were inflation, crime and immigration. Abortion was number four. Among Democrats, in another poll, abortion wasn't even the top concern. It was threats to democracy. They've been absorbing this Biden and MSNBC PR campaign about democracy. But abortion is fading. And also a lot of people are realizing, Democrats are themselves extreme on this. But also if you live in New York, nothing's going to change in your state, unfortunately. And it's not actually a live political issue in a lot of those blue states.
Doescher: And this is so fascinating, Noah, because as you recall, 2020 was a huge deal with elections. A huge thing that I hear when I go around the country, when I speak at different conferences, when I talk with different leaders in localities around the nation, I hear this is a common refrain, "Well, it looks like there's a lot of momentum for people on the right in this midterm election. However, I just don't trust the electoral system in place and they'll probably just steal the election from us." Give me your take on this, because again, Georgia was a battleground in 2020. You guys were there, you guys were on the grounds. You all pushed for big reforms. Are you seeing that still as an issue, or is that just a lot of fear going on right now?
Weinrich: It's for sure an issue. And there are a lot of states that have really shaped up their game. Georgia passed one of the strongest, probably the strongest election integrity law in the country. They got a lot of flack for it, but it's really improving things. There's a lot more trust in the system there. But some states have not. Pennsylvania, which is one of the worst in 2020, has not fixed their system. They haven't passed any election integrity laws. Governor Wolf even vetoed some that were passed by the legislature, just some common sense laws. And right now, even though the Supreme Court has instructed them, has basically said that, "You can't take these undated mail ballots." There was all this whole controversy over 2020.
Doescher: I remember.
Weinrich: And the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Governor's office are now pushing back saying, "Yes, we can. This mail in ballot that was mailed after the election or doesn't have a date on it, we'll take it up to weeks after the election."
Doescher: That was the big controversy back in 2020. And again, it looks like we could potentially be setting ourselves up for that one in this midterm election, which is in all of these, they stopped counting on election night because you had all these bags of ballots coming in from drop boxes and mail-in ballots. And it adds a whole nother dynamic to this whole thing. I know you can't, I don't want you to speculate here.
Doescher: But we know what happened in 2020. We know that that was a big part of the election. Are there ways of seeing right now that is happening again? Or is it looking a little bit easier given the fact that it's a midterm election?
Weinrich: The midterm dynamic is definitely in play. And of course, we have shaped up a lot of the laws in these states. In other states, Heritage Action has a big poll worker and poll watcher program. You got to have good people working the polls to catch problems as soon as they start. You also have to have good poll watchers as a backstop to catch any potential problems, so that's definitely improving. You also don't have Mark Zuckerberg putting $450 million in.
Doescher: That was a huge deal.
Weinrich: That was a huge deal. The biggest problem was him putting in over $400 million through a non-profit. He got a tax break to give money to these jurisdictions for drop boxes, for Get Out the Vote campaigns in very targeted blue cities. That was the biggest issue. And this time around, most states have banned that money Zuck-Bucks, and Zuckerberg, he hasn't fully cut it off, but it's a few tons of millions instead of the huge program it was. That's the biggest thing. I'm very glad to see that's not happening, but we're not out of the woods.
Doescher: It's amazing to me, Noah, and we'll move on to other issues from here, but as I've seen in the past few weeks, I've been noticing that certain people on the left have been coming out of the media and talking about how people on the right are now fixing to steal the election. They're taking the narrative and they're using it themselves. They've been criticizing this narrative for years, but they're doing it themselves. What do you make of that?
Weinrich: Well, if you recall, that's what they did in 2016. They like to say that, "Oh, the right is election deniers." But you heard for years after 2016, "Trump stole the election. Trump colluded with Russia. It was a fake election." Hillary Clinton basically said afterwards she conceded, but then she went back and said, "Well, it was rigged." There's a poll out there from Rasmussen, only one quarter of the country believes that both 2016 and 2020 were decided correctly for the presidential election. There's this myth that Democrats are these big believers in the election system, but they said that 2016 was rigged. Hillary Clinton said that she believes that conservatives have a plan to steal 2024 already. It's just total hypocrisy on their part.
Doescher: It's incredible. Talk a little bit about crime and the border. We've been covering this a lot because at Heritage, this has been one of our main issues for the last three, four years. This isn't something that is new to us. We've been watching these rogue prosecutors all around the country destroy, literally destroy the cities in which they're in through not enforcing the laws in the books and through no bail and releasing people early. And again, just not enforcing the laws that are on the books. Talk a little bit about what you've seen. Do you have an opening in inner cities where you haven't had before, that you're seeing there's a welcomeness to people accepting a different message than what the left has been giving for so many years?
Weinrich: Absolutely. That's a huge issue this year. That is the sleeper issue, or it wasn't until basically September. Republicans started running a ton of ads on crime, which is smart. But it was the sleeper issue. It kept popping up as the number three issue, number three or number four, but nobody was talking about it. It was all about inflation and abortion. But we knew that illegal immigration and crime were huge issues and two sides of the same coin. No rule of law, disorder, danger, fentanyl coming across the border. Border security and crime were huge.
Weinrich: And we've been talking about this for years. Especially with the Defund the Police movement. At Heritage Action, we had our police pledge in 2020, and we still have it, where lawmakers and citizens can sign up and say, "We will not defund the police. We will not support or sign or pass any bill that slashes police funding, even if it so-called redirects it to safety programs. No, you don't defund the police." And now we're seeing there is this huge strategic opening in cities and states that did defund the police or where there were riots or where there are rogue prosecutors for conservatives to come in and make their case.
Doescher: This year alone, 2.4 million illegal crossings, 600,000 known got aways and 856 deaths at the border again in the past year alone.
Weinrich: And that's what we know of.
Doescher: And that's what we know of.
Weinrich: That's what we know of. This is the greatest border crisis that our country has ever seen. It's an issue not only of illegal immigration, but border security. And fentanyl, it's now the number one killer among adults, 18 to 45, the number one killer or synthetic opioids, and fentanyl is a huge part of that. They're poisonings. It's not just overdoses, but it's poisoning. It can work its way into something that you don't even think is a drug, or people can be taking a certain drug and it's laced or spiked with fentanyl. They take one pill and they're dead.
Weinrich: It is horrifying. We all know people or know people who know people who have been affected by this, who have gone to the hospital or who have died of this. And not to mention just the illegal immigration and the strain that it puts on our resources. You see New York complaining about 5,000 migrants saying that, "This is going to strain our city. This is a humanitarian crisis. Send in the feds." 5,000 people, that's less than what's crossing the border every single day. Think about what's happening in Texas. It's insane.
Doescher: Set aside the fact all the people that left New York City during Covid and haven't moved back, 5,000 people is a drop in the bucket there. But the crime is huge. The fentanyl is huge. And I wanted to move to one other issue because this has been something that I think has taken a backseat, but I think is important also, that sticks in people's minds. And I think what it comes down to is just general. Trust in general. Are you able to run this country? Are you able to make us prosperous? Are you able to give my family an opportunity to become more prosperous? And that involves the situation in Ukraine, as well as Afghanistan. I wonder if that plays into this at all, if people are recalling what happened just a year ago.
Weinrich: Absolutely. I think the number one theme of this that runs through a lot of these threads is chaos and disorder. Inflation, it's about providing for your family, but it's also about chaos. You expect some inflation, you expect two or 3%. You don't expect 9%. You don't plan for that. It's chaos. It's fast changes affecting your family. Same in Afghanistan. A lot of people wanted us to get out of Afghanistan, but in an orderly way, not pulling out as the Taliban is coming in. Not planes flying out with people clinging to the wings. That's chaos. That's disorder. It's danger. Same with crime. That's chaos in your streets. It's not just happening in certain pockets of the city. People are getting carjacked just blocks from here. People are getting murdered in Navy Yard or in suburban neighborhoods. Same with illegal immigration. People aren't necessarily, especially in the middle, they're probably pro-immigrant or pro-legal migration, but this is again, chaos. There's no rule of law. Everything. Same with Ukraine.
Doescher: And as we go through this laundry list of things, as we do here on Explains, we always talk about the bad, but then I always try and bring it back to, "Hey, what's the solution?" It's that formula of this interview format that we have here. But more than this, since we're talking about polling, since we're talking about what's working on messaging, what's not working on messaging, Noah, do you think that there is a bought into, a prescribed set of plans in place? Whoever wins the outcome of this election, is there a solid plan in place to take these issues on? Or is this just the battle of, "You're wrong, we're running against that," basically?
Weinrich: That's the big question. And I would say conservatives, people on the right, have to do a better job of having a plan. It's not enough to say, "It may win you the election," but I think they will win more elections if they say, "This is bad, and I have a plan." You can't just say, "Inflation is bad and you guys are in power." You have to say, "Inflation's bad. I have a plan. Crime is bad. Here's the plan." And even if you do win the election, then you're going to come up in November or in January and say, "Okay, we won. What do we do?" Some people are rolling out plans. Rick Scott has a plan. Kevin McCarthy, his Commitment to America plan, Heritage has our seven priorities, we're working on for the next several years, but I am worried that Wednesday, after the election, if conservatives take a majority, I'm worried that some people are going to wake up and say, "Oh, shoot, what do we do now? We won. What's the plan?" People need to be preparing for that.
Doescher: I think it probably has something to do with empowering our local communities. We saw it with the election last year with critical race theory and school board races all across the country. That was a big deal. And that wasn't a national thing. That was at the local level. And I'm not exactly sure, you could probably talk this a little bit, but I know that's a huge issue right now. That's a huge issue that people are scared of the federal government imposing its way at a local level, a school board level. And I think that also might be contributing here. And I don't know if you have seen there being success in empowering local communities to rise up as well, but I'd like to have you talk about that as we wrap up here.
Weinrich: For sure. Education is not as big of an issue in the midterms this year as it was last year. Part of which is it's more federal. Your governor and your local races, education is more of an issue. You are going to see it in governor's races. Those just start making the national news. If you look at local news, state news, education is much more of an issue, school choice, but it's not breaking through as much to the Senate races. But local control is a big part of this because on the federal level, the Biden administration has been crushing local communities. It's been calling parents domestic terrorists. It's been suing states that have election integrity laws. It's been trying to sue states that are passing abortion protections.
Weinrich: And this is, in part, a reaction against that. It's just saying, "We have plans for our state. We know what's best for our state. We know what's best for our town. The Justice Department and the FBI, run by Biden and Merrick Garland, do not. Let us do our thing. Let us address our local problems, Stay out of our affairs. Don't call us domestic terrorists or child abusers or whatever." This is a big backlash against that crackdown, that federal overreach into state matters. I think you're exactly right.
Doescher: Noah, thank you so much for coming in here and giving us a roundup. The stakes are huge, and I appreciate your insights.
Weinrich: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Doescher: Okay, folks, you did it. You made it through another episode of Heritage Explains. Isn't that a big accomplishment, John Popp? That's right. John Popp, always with the thumbs up. Well, again, I wanted to link to this because we have some really good polling and polling detail. If you want to go deeper into the weeds with what we talked about in this episode, you can see issue by issue and even more in depth analysis, go ahead and head to the show notes. You can see it linked there. Also, feel free to rate us five stars. Don't worry if you've done it before in the past, you can do it again. We thank you so much for that. Thanks for sharing us with your friends and family. Also, you can send us an email at [email protected]. We read every single one of them. We respond to almost every single one of them. Thank you so much, folks, for doing it. I'll be up next week for a special episode, we'll catch you on the next download.