"That sounded very Republican": "View" hosts clash over independents caring about ... inflation and the supply chain

If you’re a Democrat who’s invested in trying to hold onto Congress next year, this short clip has to be one of the scariest things you’ve seen of the entire cycle.

Behold as former Fox host Gretchen Carlson names what are plainly the two most urgent economic problems vexing Americans right now, rising prices and scarce goods, and pronounces them top-tier concerns of independent voters.

Only to have liberal Sunny Hostin sniff that Carlson sounds like a Republican in independent clothing to her.

If prioritizing inflation and the supply crisis makes one a Republican according to Democrats’ own voters, Team Blue is utterly doomed next fall. I can’t think of a more efficient way to tell undecideds and centrist leaners that they’re better off voting for the GOP if they’re worried about their grocery bills and gas prices.

What Hostin says about not confusing independents with centrists is true as far as it goes. Most indies lean left or right. Some lean so far left or right, in fact, that they call themselves independent because the major party on their side is too centrist for them. Look no further than Bernie Sanders, a self-identified independent from Vermont who by no means is an undecided moderate on Election Day.

But Hostin’s kidding herself if she thinks that every independent who’s worried about stagflation and empty store shelves is a secret Fox viewer just looking to score a point on Grandpa Joe. I posted this astounding graph from Gallup a few days ago but it’s worth looking at again:

The parties are hyperpolarized as usual. There’s hardly anything Biden can do to make Republicans like him more or Democrats like him less. But look at that decline among indies. When he was sworn in as president he enjoyed better than 60 percent support within the group, residue of the fact that he beat Trump handily among independents in 2020, 54/41. But he’s lost more than 20 points(!) in the past four months, fallout from the Afghanistan fiasco, the resurgence of COVID, and inflation anxiety. If Hostin were right that indies are just partisans by another name we wouldn’t see anything close to that variability in support for Biden.

They liked him. They gave him a chance. Maybe they’ll eventually start liking him again. But for now Carlson’s indisputably right that he’s out of sync with a cohort whom Dems desperately need on their side next fall.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Joel Benenson and Neil Newhouse are two well-known pollsters collaborating on a project for the centrist think tank Center Forward. Benenson is a Democrat who worked for Obama, Newhouse is a Republican who worked for Romney and McCain. They’ve arrived at a shared conclusion about Biden’s current troubles: He’s getting killed with independents because their priorities don’t match his and his party’s priorities. According to Benenson and Newhouse, indies’ priorities sound more like, well, Gretchen Carlson’s:

Today’s voters appear to be most concerned about the ongoing global pandemic and are not deeply invested in the haggling over proposals such as expanding Medicare coverage to include dental, hearing and vision benefits…

In their survey of more than 2,600 likely voters, the pollsters asked respondents to cite their three most important issues. Democratic voters chose climate change, pandemic recovery and “raising taxes on the rich” as their most important issues, closely followed by “health insurance coverage/costs.”…

But that menu does not quite match the interests of independent voters, who chose “economy/inflation/jobs” as their top concern, with “immigration and border security” close behind and then “covid-19 pandemic recovery.”

Republican candidates will note that 71 percent of independent voters agreed with this statement: “People will continue to pay more money on everyday expenses unless the government becomes more fiscally responsible.”

“He’s gotta lead from the middle out,” Benenson told WaPo about Biden’s strategy going forward. If Democrats end up getting smashed next fall, universally the consensus will be that it’s because he misread his mandate and tried to pass an FDR/LBJ-style suite of transformative social welfare legislation when all most people wanted after the tumult of Trump was pragmatism, getting COVID under control, and doing whatever can be done legislatively to avert a reprise of “stop the steal” in 2024. (I shouldn’t say “universally.” Progressives will complain, as usual, that their party got wiped out because they didn’t do full socialism.) Swing voters wanted a problem-solver, I think, the kind of president who’d drop everything when a crisis like inflation began gathering and pivot to easing it. Instead Dems have plodded forward on infrastructure and reconciliation despite public anxiety about further federal spending as prices continue to rise.

It’s the 2010 devil’s bargain all over again. Democrats saw that ObamaCare was unpopular but decided they were willing to risk losing control of Congress in order to pass it. They’re doing the same thing now with reconciliation. Carlson is warning them that there’ll be a reckoning. All the lefty partisans like Sunny Hostin can do is sneer at them.