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Opinion Pelosi has found the Democrats’ midterm strategy

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) delivers remarks on the South Lawn of the White House on Aug. 9. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

As Republicans whipped themselves up into new levels of fury on Tuesday over the execution of a search warrant at former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Democrats were taking victory laps and spelling out their midterm message.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has remained unflappably upbeat about the midterms, now has good reason to tout Democrats’ prospects. Even when other issues have popped up (e.g., impeachment of Trump for inciting an attack on the U.S. Capitol), Pelosi has consistently been an advocate for running on “kitchen table” issues, as she regularly put its, such as lowering the cost of health insurance premiums and prescription drugs.

She did this well during an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday. She spoke about multiple legislative wins that fall into this category, such as the CHIPS and Science Act that President Biden signed into law on Tuesday, and the PACT Act, which will expand health care for sick veterans. The speaker also glowed about the pending Inflation Reduction Act, the reconciliation package that the Senate recently passed. “It’s pretty exciting,” she said, adding, “It has an integrity to it. And yes, it is about meeting the needs of America’s working families for the people, not politics.”

Later, at a White House signing ceremony, she was once again on message: “The CHIPS and Science Act is a historic achievement — lowering kitchen table costs and creating good-paying jobs for America’s families,” she declared. “That is our first responsibility, domestically. Returning American semiconductor production to world leadership status. And unleashing America’s science and technology to maintain our leadership for the future.”

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Above all else, she tells her members, Democrats should run on what they’ve done. Naturally, that will mean highlighting all the measures Republicans opposed (the $35 price cap on insulin being among the juiciest targets).

But she also says Democrats must focus on their future agenda. If Democrats can hold the House and add two more Senate seats, she said at the signing ceremony, “we can get much more done in the United States Senate for the Voting Rights Act and voting protections, and the list goes on — a woman’s right to choose and the rest.”

Since the Supreme Court overruled federal protection of abortion rights, she and scores of Democrats have elevated the issue to the top of their agendas. For Democrats such as Rep. Elaine Luria (Va.), abortion now figures heavily in their ads:

Rep. Kim Schrier (Wash.) has been running a similar ad:

Even in red states such as Kansas and Nebraska, Democrats are leaning into the “cultural” issue. They have discovered that talking about reproductive rights — such as women’s freedom from forced pregnancy and birth, access to post-miscarriage care and privacy protections — works when facing a party seeking absolute bans across the country.

Ironically, Democratic candidates need not to do much on their third issue: Republicans’ lawlessness, penchant for violence and hostility toward law enforcement. When asked on NBC News’s “Today Show” about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s hysterical reaction to the news that the FBI searched Trump’s residence, Pelosi dismissed the Republican leader’s statement and said, “We believe in the rule of law. And that’s what our country is about. And no person is above the law. Not even the president of the United States. Not even a former president of the United States.”

Moreover, Democratic House and Senate candidates need not do much heavy lifting when it comes to the Jan. 6 insurrection, Republicans’ slavish support for the “big lie,” their refusal to hold Trump accountable and election deniers’ threats to refuse to certify opponents’ wins. They can easily drill down on the clear and present danger that Trump’s Republican supplicants pose to the country. And they can rely heavily on the report from the House Jan. 6 select committee and the megaphone that Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) effectively uses. (If Democrats are lucky, Trump will declare his candidacy for 2024 and scare the living daylights out of the majority of the electorate that fears his return to office.)

Altogether, Democrats are ready to go on the offensive. They can tout their legislative wins and promise to fight for abortion rights. And they can do so while reminding voters that the GOP cannot be entrusted with power.

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