Winning The Infrastructure Conversation Is Step 1 For The GOP


The voters who will decide if Republicans gain a majority in Congress and the White House over the next two elections are more concerned that infrastructure funding is spent efficiently, effectively, and fast than they are with President Biden’s and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desire to reimagine the American economy.

Survey research commissioned by the Center for American Ideas in 21 key suburban and exurban counties and cities reveals support for the Republican approach in the ongoing infrastructure debate. These election-deciding voters are closely following the discussions between President Biden and Senate Republicans. With Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) leading negotiations, Senate Republicans have focused on funding and rebuilding roads and bridges while also creating jobs. On the other side of the table, President Biden and Speaker Pelosi have sought to make the meaning of infrastructure as broad as the Atlantic Ocean.When discussing infrastructure, Republicans should be using a message of reasonableness and efficiency — it is the best approach to earning the votes of suburban and exurban voters. The key is to communicate frequently about ideas with bipartisan support that match up with voters’ priorities.

Republicans can also win this argument by pointing out that President Biden and congressional Democrats only seek a meager 7% of total spending on actual infrastructure, such as construction and improvement of bridges, highways, roads, ports, waterways, and airports. Further, Geoff Colvin, with Fortune, points out that infrastructure investments only rise to 24% of total spending when upgrading wastewater and drinking water systems, expanding high-speed broadband Internet service, modernizing the electric grid, and improving infrastructure resilience are all added to the total. What about the remaining 76%?

For Democrats, their push to pass an infrastructure bill is simply another path to the “government knows best” approach, similar to their response to the COVID pandemic. Should you want proof, the Democrats’ infrastructure plan spends tax dollars to build or redevelop more than 2 million private homes. Under their plan, government money will be available to unnecessarily subsidize the manufacturing and purchasing of electric vehicles. Democrats even increased spending on home-based care-child care facilities and research at the National Science Foundation in the name of infrastructure improvements.Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer may have coined the understatement of the year when he said his fellow Democrats’ plan has a whole lot more than infrastructure in it.

There is a better way. The Center for American Ideas identifies three infrastructure proposals that earned the support of more than six in 10 respondents. Adam Geller with National Research Inc. conducted the poll, a national, mixed-mode survey of 1,050 suburban/exurban voters living in 21 key political counties, on May 21-26.

The first proposal encourages states to streamline the way they obtain supplies for infrastructure projects in order to simplify the process and increase efficiency. This idea achieves 75% support overall.

The second proposal calls for a nonpartisan commission, similar to how we decide on military base closures, to determine which infrastructure projects to prioritize, in order to remove the politics in these spending decisions. This idea achieves 71% support overall.

The third proposal creates more flexibility in federal funding for some infrastructure projects in order to focus on states’ highest priorities. This idea achieves 69% support overall.

These messages are most effective in the communities where Republicans lost ground in 2020. In the counties that Donald Trump won in 2016 but lost to Joe Biden in 2020, proposal No. 1 achieved 76% support, No. 2 achieved 70% support, and No. 3 achieved 69% support.

Among Republican and independent voters, proposal No. 1 – streamlining the supply requirements — garners the largest levels of support.

Bipartisan messages resonate with college-educated voters, a demographic the GOP lost ground with in 2020. One plan won support from as much as 79% of college-educated men and women.

Finally, among college-educated men, proposal No. 1 achieved 76% support, No. 2 achieved 73% support, and No. 3 achieved 71% support while among college-educated women, the proposals achieved 79%, 75%, and 71% support, respectively.

For Republicans, earning the votes, once again, of these crucial blocks of Americans is vital to 2022 electoral success.

To be clear, the outcome of the negotiations between President Biden and Sen. Capito will not be the definitive indicator of which party will earn a majority in Senate and House in the midterm elections. It does, however provide insights into voters’ priorities and ideas as the national conversation moves to other issues of concerns such as the economy and jobs, COVID recovery, health care, immigration, and education.

The rural vs. urban split no longer defines American party politics. Whether it is the current debate over infrastructure or defeating Joe Biden’s attempt to rollback tax relief, it will be critical for Republican elected officials to effectively communicate with voters living in and just outside America’s suburban neighborhoods.

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