When Republican presidential hopefuls take the stage in Milwaukee on Wednesday evening, they will pose a key question to American voters as they vie to position themselves as the best candidate to take down President Biden: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
The eight debate participants are likely to make Biden’s economic record – and the newly rebranded “Bidenomics” agenda – a primary target during the first debate of the 2024 presidential primary, hosted by Fox News.
“I think the focus will be on: Are you better off now than you were under the last Republican president?” one Republican strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told FOX Business. “Bidenomics is going to be a buzzword and not in a good way for President Biden.”
Debate participants will include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Former President Donald Trump – the Republican front-runner – confirmed Sunday that he will skip the debate.
Candidates are likely to point to a litany of stats in making their case against Biden, including the ongoing cost-of-living crisis that has squeezed millions of U.S. households, the highest mortgage rates in two decades and large federal budget deficits.
The White House has lauded a mostly steady year-long decline in inflation, but most economists agree that is due to the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hike campaign and the resolution of supply chain disruptions, not the president’s economic agenda.
While inflation has fallen from the highs of mid-2022 – from 9.1% to 3.2% – many families have yet to see material relief.
The Consumer Price Index is still running well above the typical pre-pandemic rate, and the cost of necessities like food, gasoline, rent and child care remain far more expensive than they were just one year ago. Chronically high prices are forcing Americans to spend about $709 more per month than they did two years ago, according to a recent estimate from Moody’s Analytics.
As they spend more on everyday goods, Americans are burning through their savings – and are increasingly turning to credit cards to cover those basic expenses.
“Inflation has de-accelerated somewhat, but it’s still higher and there are still some areas of the economy where prices are still skyrocketing,” the GOP strategist said. “American families are still not feeling the relief, and they’re still not better off than they were.”
Connecting with voters on material economic issues may prove key to winning the primary – and the 2024 presidential election.
A June poll from Pew Research Center found that 65% of respondents identified inflation as a “very big problem,” beating health care, drug addiction, gun violence and violent crime for the top spot.
“American families and Main Street small businesses have struggled over the last few years and are looking for a champion to ease the burden on their budgets,” said Greg Mesack, senior vice president of government affairs at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions. “Candidates of any party need to take a hard look at their economic plans and ensure there is a path to fight inflation, promote growth and increase access to safe and affordable financial products.”