Politicians look for what’s called an 80-20 issue. It’s when 80% of voters are on one side of the issue and just 20% of voters are on the other side of the issue. It means a politician simply has to be on the popular side of that issue in order to appeal to voters.
The catch is that the 80-20 issues usually aren’t the ones that resonate with voters to begin with. Sure, most people are in favor of fixing potholes, but most people don’t simply vote for the candidate who vows to fix the potholes. When the rare political issue comes along that dominates the headlines and has the potential to define upcoming elections, yet still has an 80-20 split, that’s when politicians get really excited – or fearful.
For instance, a new survey by YouGov reveals that “over 80% of Americans see Ukraine as ‘friendly’ or an ally, 70% consider Russia ‘unfriendly’ or an enemy.” This means that all U.S. politicians can try to gain favor with voters in the November midterms simply by being pro-Ukraine and anti-Russia. But the key word in there is “try.”
We just saw both parties in Congress vote overwhelmingly in favor of U.S. aid to Ukraine, a clear sign that both parties want to be seen as pro-Ukraine and anti-Russia right now. But that’s going to be a difficult sell for the Republican Party, which just spent four years being run by Donald Trump, whose loyalty to Russia’s Vladimir Putin was (and still is) laugh out loud obvious. And this comes even as House Republican Madison Cawthorn just got caught calling Ukraine’s Zelenskyy a “thug” behind closed doors. And of course the Republican Party’s water boy Tucker Carlson has been acting as Putin’s publicist each night on Fox News.
On a human level, it’s heartening to see that about 80% of Americans are now siding with Ukraine and against Russia; it’s the morally correct position. On a political level, it means the Republican Party is going to have to try really hard to paint itself as anti-Putin, and it’ll have a difficult time pulling it off. Meanwhile the Democratic Party gets to go into the midterms armed with several years of B-roll footage of prominent Republican politicians siding with Putin and Russia.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report