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Strategists and political experts weigh effect of GOP’s focus on crime ahead of midterms

Crime is on the rise in major cities across the country and many Republicans seeking election to the Senate have put the issue at the forefront of their campaigns.

Recent poll indicates that voters believe Republicans are more equipped to handle the issue that is now of more importance to them than abortion, just weeks away from the November midterm elections.

According to the survey produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates in New York City, the economy (89%), education (77%) and inflation (76%) topped out the issues voters consider “highly important” as midterms loom, but those issues were followed closely by crime at 69%, which beat out abortion at 62%.

To better understand whether the GOP’s focus on crime rates in key midterm battleground states taking a bite out of Senate Democrats midterm momentum in the polls, Fox News Digital contacted political experts from both sides of the aisle to get their assessment.


Corry Bliss, partner at FP1 Strategies, former executive director for the Congressional Leadership Fund & American Action Network:

“Democrats put forward woke candidates who rock Defund the Police t-shirts while voters see cities in critical swing states like Milwaukee and Cincinnati overtaken by violent crime. Any Democratic candidate that has dabbled in soft-on-crime policies like eliminating cash bail or played nice with radical activists trying to divert dollars from law enforcement will have serious challenges so long as some voters feel unable to walk safely down the street in their neighborhood.”

Corry Bliss, partner at FP1 Strategies, former executive director for the Congressional Leadership Fund & American Action Network

Robert Cahaly, senior strategist and pollster, Trafalgar Group:

“I don’t believe [Democrats] have any midterm momentum. I think that the polls from the last three and a half weeks would demonstrate that they no longer have momentum at all and the GOP focus on crime is a part of why they no longer have momentum.”

Robert Cahaly, senior strategist and pollster, Trafalgar Group


Lis Smith, former senior advisor for Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign and author of Any Given Tuesday, A Political Love Story:

“There are three certainties in life — death, taxes, and Republicans closing out campaigns on crime. So any Democratic campaign worth its salt saw these attacks coming. That’s why smart candidates like Mark Kelly, Val Demings, and Tim Ryan (among others) prebutted these attacks before they even started. So I don’t think these attacks will have the same resonance that they did in 2020 when Democrats were on the defensive on defund the police.”

Lis Smith, former senior advisor for Pete Buttigieg's 2020 presidential campaign and author of <i>Any Given Tuesday, A Political Love Story</i>

Erin Perrine, vice president of Tag Strategies, former communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz, and former national press secretary for House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy:

“Americans across the country have seen crime rates skyrocket, and Republicans hitting Democrats in competitive races for being soft-on-crime is working. We’ve seen the lead flip in recent Wisconsin polls in favor of Sen. Ron Johnson, who has ads hitting his opponent Mandela Barnes for his past support for defunding the police and releasing criminals from jail. That message resonates in Wisconsin, which lived through some of the most violent riots in 2020. The same can be said for the race in Pennsylvania, where polls have tightened significantly after Dr. Oz and his allies have hammered John Fetterman for being pro-criminal and wanting to release one-third of the prison population.”

Erin Perrine, vice president of Tag Strategies, former communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz, and former national press secretary for House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy


Neil Newhouse, pollster and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies:

“Based on current polling over the past ten days or so, it feels like the Democrats’ momentum has stalled, with both Biden’s numbers flat and the generic a dead heat. That spells trouble for their hope of holding onto the House in November.”

“No question that the GOP has an advantage on crime, as D’s are still saddled with the ‘defund’ movement from two years ago. Both crime and immigration could play important secondary roles in the campaign, especially if the inflation issue begins to fade. Further, crime is a top concern among suburban women — a key constituency this fall.”

Neil Newhouse, pollster and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies

Hari Sevugan, former national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee and founding partner of Narrator Message and Media:

“Democrats are at their highest level of support since June in the latest 538 congressional ballot average. Dems are now up to a 5 point lead in this morning’s Reuters poll. In the latest Fox News poll, Democrats have picked up ten points since May, and three points in the last month alone versus Republicans. None of this is surprising as the cost of gas comes down and the choice between Republicans who want a federal abortion ban and to end Medicare and Social Security as we know it, and Democrats who have overseen the greatest job growth in 50 years, is put before voters.”

Kyle Kondik, managing editor, Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

“It does seem like Republican messaging on crime has played a role in Republican Senate candidates in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin seeming to improve their position over the past few weeks. The other thing is that Republicans are often comfortable talking about crime, and they feel like they have an advantage on that issue — unlike, say, abortion, where Democrats feel like they have an advantage and Republicans do not.”

Kyle Kondik, managing editor, Sabato’s Crystal Ball

Jesse Ferguson, Democratic strategist and former deputy national press secretary and senior spokesperson for the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign:

“These GOP seats in PA and WI were always going to come down to the wire. People were overly down on Democratic prospects here last spring and overly bullish over the summer. The reality is that this was always the trajectory once the campaign engaged and these will be toss-ups to election day.”


Doug Usher, pollster and partner at Forbes Tate:

“I guess the question is where the polls have been and where they’re going and every indication has been substantial improvement in some states for Democrats. That includes Pennsylvania and Arizona. There’s been some indication of weakening for some Democrats in Georgia and in New Mexico. I think across the board, Republican efforts to focus on inflation and crime make sense, but the real wild card here is the extent to which the Dobbs decision effects turnout.”

“What we’ve seen in the last few election cycles is that polls have, especially in swing states, have undercounted or underrepresented Republicans, and particularly Trump Republican enthusiasm and turnout. What we saw in Kansas was an incredible, overwhelming turnout, not just among Democrats but also independents and Republicans who were focused on abortion as that was the only issue on the ballot. So, Republicans getting away from that issue is important and we’re seeing mixed results in the polls.”

Doug Usher, pollster and partner at Forbes Tate

Rory Cooper, managing director of Purple Strats:

“While it’s difficult to determine exact causes for poll movement, it’s very much in the GOP’s interests to keep the focus on Democrat’s track record on crime, education and inflation, three main drivers that will flip votes. If this election is a referendum on Joe Biden and his party, they stand a much better chance than if it’s about Donald Trump.”

The comments provided to Fox News Digital in this article are part of a weekend series in which strategists from across the political spectrum are asked the same questions related to political hot topics and are provided with an opportunity to offer their perspective.

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