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Two Parties, Two Campaigns of Fear

With less than a month to go until Election Day, the airwaves and the Internet are saturated with political commercials, and the two major parties’ messages are becoming loud and clear.  Democrats have focused heavily on health care and corporate-friendly tax cuts, while Republicans are focused on the “culture wars”. The similarity between the two parties’ strategies is that they are both intended to play on fear.

Culture Wars Center Stage For Republicans

Political watchers expected the GOP to play up its tax cuts in political ads in 2018, but instead a clear pattern of attack is being seen. The message for Republicans is that Nancy Pelosi’s “liberal culture will take over America”.  While the GOP has controlled government for two years, that dominance has not translated into a winning electoral strategy.  Republicans are not gaining swing voters in most districts, but their base is solid. Winning the election, though, means convincing a few fence-sitters to vote their way. So the tactic at every level of the midterm election is to highlight culture wars between liberals and conservatives.

One example is Senator Ted Cruz, who has unexpectedly found himself in a competitive race against Democratic Representative Beto O’Rourke in typically red Texas, has been saying that Texas is “too conservative” for a Democrat. And the focus of his most recent ad is on NFL players kneeling in protest, not on policy issues.  “In November, where will you stand?”, is the conclusive question in the Cruz ad.

Democrats Stir Anxiety Over Health Care

Democrats are focused on a different fear: reinforcing the idea that Republicans want o take away American’s  health care insurance system.  Democratic candidates and PACs spent more than $40.8 million on health care campaign ads in Senate races and $38.3 million in House races just through September, and are expected to match that level in just the next few weeks.

Michigan House candidate Elissa Slotkin who served as assistant secretary of defense under President Obama,  in her race to defeat incumbent Republican Representative Mike Bishop, tweeted her most recent health care message, directed straight at the anxiety known by many voters – particularly swing voters, who are aging rapidly.  She stated that her mother couldn’t afford her premiums after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer due to preexisting conditions.

While the GOP stokes fears over cultural differences, the Democrats, unlike in 2016, are relying on messages about saving Obamacare to appeal to the white working class and suburban swing voters who rely on it.

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