Republicans raise Afghanistan anniversary to knock Democrats off balance in midterm elections
Republicans are moving to undermine the Democrats’ midterm election prospects by shifting voters’ attention from a summer of legislative achievement and foreign policy success to the one-year anniversary of the botched U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Democrats saw their dire 2022 odds improve amid President Joe Biden’s announcement that U.S. forces killed a top al Qaeda leader in Kabul and the passage of key legislation. Democratic majorities in Congress cleared bills to increase domestic microchip manufacturing, improve veterans’ healthcare, and invest in social and climate programs. Republicans countered in August with reminders of Biden’s mishandling of the military pullout from Afghanistan after 20 years of war.
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This GOP effort to put the Democrats back on their heels is expected to intensify this week. Friday marks 12 months to the day since a deadly terrorist attack at the Kabul airport took the lives of 13 U.S. service members and nearly 200 civilians as Americans and U.S. allies attempted a hasty exit from Afghanistan while the Taliban tightened their grip on the country.
“No one has been held accountable for Joe Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. That will change with a Republican majority,” said Mike Berg, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“Democrats still refuse to hold Joe Biden and his administration accountable for the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan that cost 13 American service members their lives and ceded control of Afghanistan to the Taliban,” added Chris Hartline, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Americans are still trapped there, and Senate Democrats don’t care.”
The Democratic National Committee did not provide a comment by press time.
The Democrats still face significant midterm election headwinds with the post-Labor Day homestretch of the fall campaign just around the corner. Biden’s job approval rating is still languishing just above 40%, and the generic congressional ballot, gauging which party voters prefer to be in charge on Capitol Hill, is virtually tied at 44%, which, historically, means good things for the Republicans.
However, nonpartisan political handicappers have recently downgraded predictions for Republican gains in Congress, coinciding with polls showing Democratic enthusiasm to vote this November has risen and now trails the GOP only narrowly. There are fresh doubts about whether Republicans will succeed in winning control of a 50-50 Senate. Meanwhile, the GOP is still likely to reclaim the House, although the size of its new majority might be smaller than the historic levels previously predicted.
Skyrocketing inflation and the deepening of an economic slump continue to register as voters’ top concerns, and that’s where Republicans are focusing most of their energy in their campaigns against the Democrats. Indeed, the NRCC, NRSC, and super PACs aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are not engaged in any concerted messaging effort regarding the one-year anniversary of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
But GOP officials, broadly, view the commemoration as crucial to reminding voters why electing Republican majorities in Congress is so important. Without GOP control of the House and Senate floors and committees, it’s impossible to put the brakes on Biden’s agenda and conduct serious oversight of his administration. To that end, House Republicans marked the anniversary of the pullout by criticizing the president’s Afghanistan policy and produced a 100-page report critical of his handling of the withdrawal.
On the political side, the Republican National Committee is in the process of a monthlong messaging campaign to spotlight Biden’s management of the U.S. exit from Kabul. RNC officials confirmed this effort, which includes research papers, videos, op-eds, and rapid-response press releases, would continue in the months ahead.
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“One year after Biden’s disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, Americans are still left with more questions than answers,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.
“Americans will always remember the 13 service members who died, the countless who were left behind, and that Biden is responsible for one of the most catastrophic foreign policy decisions in U.S. history,” she added.