Ahead of the Iowa caucuses, Republican candidates tap voters’ economic frustrations

Ahead of the Iowa caucuses, Republican presidential candidates are seeking to tap into voters’ discontentment with the U.S. economy as Americans hope for relief that eases their money concerns.

CBS News polling shows that a majority of Americans think the economy is in bad shape, despite many strong economic measures, such as low unemployment and a growing U.S. economy. 

But many voters are focused on the impact of inflation, which is rising at a slower pace than a year earlier amid the Federal Reserve’s interest rate-hike campaign. Even so, prices remain higher than prior to the pandemic, and millions of Americans say they are struggling to pay their basic household bills.

GOP candidates are focusing on that dissatisfaction and stressing their plans to make everyday living costs more affordable. 

“Even though inflation has lowered, prices are still up for many things, and so this is something that the Republican candidates have really been talking about on the campaign trail in Iowa,” Stephen Gruber-Miller, statehouse and politics reporter at the Des Moines Register, told CBS News. 

“They really talk about how Biden’s economic policies have contributed to this rise in prices, so this is something that they’re hoping that voters will take with them and reward them for offering policies to bring down spending, which they really tie to higher inflation,” he added.

Higher rents and food prices boosted overall U.S. inflation in December by an annual rate of 3.4%, despite the Federal Reserve’s efforts to slow inflation to a 2% target.

Voting with their budgets?

Because Iowa is the first state to hold any nominating contests, it serves as a litmus test for hopefuls seeking their party’s nomination. Even though Trump is in the lead with Republican voters, GOP candidates are eagerly pushing their campaign ideas in Iowa.

The GOP will hold its caucuses on Monday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. CT, or 8 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, Iowa Democrats are holding a caucus on the same day, but are opting for voters to choose their candidate entirely by mail-in ballot this election cycle and will release the results on Super Tuesday on March 5.

“People are paying more for things and they’re really feeling that in their daily lives, whether that’s housing — interest rates have gone up for homes — whether it’s rent for apartments, whether it’s food, whether it’s gas or things like child care, they are really feeling that in their budgets so that’s why the candidates keep talking about this issue,” Gruber-Miller said. 

Republican candidates are “hoping to tap into that frustration that Iowans are feeling,” he added, while the Biden administration “is still searching for a message that’s going to break through.”

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