James Carville is a smart guy. After all, he led the campaign that put a little-known governor from Arkansas in the White House.
As the chief strategist for Bill Clinton, the “Ragin’ Cajun” was famed for framing the race with just four words: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Candidates in the 1992 race faced tough circumstances: More than 10 million Americans were unemployed, job creation was the slowest since the Great Depression, the federal deficit had reached a record high, and poverty and welfare rolls — along with inflation — were soaring.
But then-President George H.W. Bush seemed out of touch, and The New York Times made up a story to drive that narrative.
Bush made a campaign stop in February 1992 at the National Grocers Association Convention in Florida and hit an exhibit that featured a new type of checkout scanner.
“The look of wonder flickered across his face again as he saw the item and price registered on the cash register screen.” the Times wrote, then noted, “Some grocery stores began using electronic scanners as early as 1976, and the devices have been in general use in American supermarkets for a decade.”
The message was clear: Bush had no idea how a grocery store worked, and no idea what life was like for average Americans. The story never went away: Even his obituary in the Times said, “His critics saw him as out of touch with ordinary Americans, pointing to what they portrayed as his amazed reaction during a demonstration of a supermarket scanner.”
The story, it turned out, was completely false. The exhibit Bush viewed featured a new kind of scanner, one that could actually read bar codes that were wrinkled, torn or half missing.
But back to Carville. He knows how to frame a campaign — and how not to. The strategist on Monday offered some sound advice to Democrats engaged in the 2022 midterms.
“A lot of these consultants think if all we do is run abortion spots that will win for us. I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s a good issue. But if you just sit there and they’re pummeling you on crime and pummeling you on the cost of living, you’ve got to be more aggressive than just yelling abortion every other word.”
Carville is spot on. Democrats thought they had been gifted a winning issue when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1972 landmark decision that deemed abortion a constitutionally protected right for all Americans.
But Americans are far more focused on other issues. An Ipsos poll of 1,003 voters released this week found that abortion didn’t even make the top 10 issues on which Americans want President Joe Biden to focus. Here’s the list:
Economy — 55%
Employment/Jobs — 24%
Immigration — 21%
Environment — 16%
Unifying Country — 15%
Corruption — 12%
COVID-19 — 9%
Racial Inequality — 8%
International Trade — 2%
Other — 5%
If Democrats are smart, they’ll heed Carville’s advice. He knows a thing or two about winning.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.