Almost every political issue you can think of is on the table for this Tuesday's midterm election, from abortion access to trust in the electoral process to the environmental impact of lobster fishing.
The economy is predictably a major issue as well, but candidates' talking points on the topic vary widely across the United States and among races. Similar to the economy itself, which is contending with both a 40-year high in inflation and a historically robust job market, political signals are mixed.
To provide a window into how the economy might factor into voters' decision on Tuesday, here's a sampling of three races where economic issues loom large.
Key Senate Race
North Carolina: Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC 13th District) has extended his lead on former North Carolina State Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley (D) in a race that has brought economic issues front and center, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average. Beasley in particular has criticized Budd, a three-term congressman, for opposing the Biden administration's Inflation Reduction Act, which allows Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug and insulin prices. She's also knocked Budd for voting against an expanded child tax credit under the American Rescue Plan and for not supporting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. In his more targeted attacks, Budd has mostly focused on Beasley's record on crime, but he's also argued that Democratic policies are making inflation worse. Overall, polls show Republican voters prioritizing the economy, while Democrats have put more emphasis on social issues, such as ensuring abortion access. Beasley notably rejected this binary view, saying: “We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can be working on higher prices and be fighting for our rights.” Budd, meanwhile, condemned both sides of the party's policy, saying "everything that Democrats are doing is making life worse."
Takeaway: Despite President Joe Biden's low approval rating, Democratic candidates continue to promote the administration's marquee spending packages as key to solving Americans' economic woes
Key House Race
Michigan: In a newly-drawn district between Detroit and Lansing, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich. 8th District) and State Sen. Tom Barrett (R) have both made economic issues central to their campaigns in a bid to sway swing voters. On inflation, Barrett has made an argument typical among Republicans this election season: that high levels of spending by a Democratic-controlled federal government has fueled inflation. Slotkin has countered that Barrett has yet to produce a viable alternative for combating inflation. She also took him to task for voting against a state incentive program designed to attract investment from General Motors for a battery cell plant. Barrett called the measure "corporate welfare." He also argued against measures to grow semiconductor production in the U.S., saying the government should essentially shut out imports of chips using tariffs.
Takeaway: While Democrats see public investment as a way to bolster domestic manufacturing, create jobs, and even bring down inflation long-term, Republicans continue to argue that high levels of government spending are why inflation is so bad in the first place.
Key Gubernatorial Race
Kansas: Incumbent Gov. Laura Kelly (D), a self-proclaimed moderate, has centered on economic concerns in her race against Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R). Specifically, Kelly has championed her administration's efforts to bring an electric vehicle battery plant to the state. As a response to inflation, the governor also said that she will speed up the process for ending the state's sales tax on food, accelerating the timeline for a bill she signed earlier this year. Similar to other Republican challengers, Schmidt has criticized Kelly, who took office in 2019, for mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that lockdowns lasted too long and hurt the economy. He's also promised to cut public spending and pass a constitutional amendment that would prevent transportation dollars from being diverted, a clear response to the Biden administration's Build Back Better agenda.
Takeaway: The pandemic is still a major talking point for Republicans, which they are using to undercut Democrats' claims of bolstering the economy in recent years.