GOP candidates motivate with anxiety, not tax cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) — There’s a border crisis in Pennsylvania. The radical left is surging in New Jersey. And Nancy Pelosi is a threat to New York.

Republican candidates in the nation’s premiere midterm battlegrounds have embraced a central message in their fight to maintain the House majority this fall — and it has little to do with the surging economy or the sweeping tax cuts that the GOP celebrated as a once-in-a-generation achievement just eight months ago.

Instead, as Republicans enter the final month of the primary season, they’re looking ahead to a general-election strategy of embracing anxiety as a tool to motivate voters. That was clear this week as the GOP’s closing message in an Ohio special election questioned Democrat Danny O’Connor’s connection to Pelosi, the House Democratic leader and preferred super villain for Republicans.

“We wish it got the pitch forks out and it doesn’t,” GOP ad maker Will Ritter said of the Republican tax cuts.

Some Republican strategists are frustrated the party isn’t focused on the tax law or the broader health of the economy. Others concede that in the Trump era, there’s no better motivator than fear of the other side.

The plan had some success in Ohio: The race was too close to call Wednesday as Republican Troy Balderson maintained a razor-thin advantage over O’Connor.

While the GOP is reluctant to engage on tax cuts, it’s a fight Democrats want.

In Ohio, which hosted the season’s final special election, O’Connor railed against the tax cuts as a giveaway to the rich that threatened Medicare and Social Security. While his Republican opponent may prevail, the 31-year-old Democrat trailed by less than 1 percentage point in a district that’s been in Republican hands since before he was born.

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