GOP Struggles On Income Equality

Republicans are struggling to address income inequality on the campaign trail as they look to connect with middle class voters.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are hammering Republicans over what they say is a growing gap between the rich and the poor. Polls show their calls to raise the minimum wage and improve working conditions seem to resonate with voters.

By contrast, many of the top GOP presidential candidates are finding it difficult to gain traction with a broader message of economic growth and job creation, strategists say.

This disconnect could make Republican presidential candidates vulnerable to attacks from the left over income inequality that place them at odds with the average worker, according to a GOP strategist.

“Politically, the sounds bites on the Democratic side are better,” acknowledged GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “It’s something that sounds good to a lot of voters.”

But promising to raise the minimum wage is typically more popular with middle class voters than talking more broadly about economic growth, O’Connell explained. That’s why the message from Sanders and Clinton is appealing to many workers.

Most Republicans, meanwhile, vigorously oppose such steep hikes in the minimum wage, which they argue would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. They call for fewer regulations and lower taxes, which they argue will create jobs and naturally push wages higher.

But that message is a tougher sell to working-class voters, O’Connell said.

“What Republicans tell you over and over is, ‘If we increase economic growth, we will increase jobs,’ but what they should be talking about is wages,” he explained. 

Read more from Tim Devaney at The Hill

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Analysis & Political Strategy