In fact, Republican leaders (such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)) have at times been explicit about not endorsing a policy platform. After all, why make promises some people won’t like when simply being the alternative to the party in power seems like it will be good enough?
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This is not to say that no plans have trickled out. There was Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) much-pilloried articulation of a platform for his party — including such things as sunsetting federal laws and expanding the number of Americans paying taxes. Most of the rest of the party quickly walked away from the proposal, those up for reelection walking the fastest. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) experienced something similar when he introduced federal legislation regulating abortion in September.
On the House side, there’s been a lot of similar activity. Numerous Republicans are telling anyone who will listen about their plans to investigate President Biden, his son Hunter and Major Biden, the dog. (Probably.) Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House, floated impeaching Biden. Others have talked about impeaching other administration officials. It’s almost certain that the need to increase the debt limit will prompt Republicans to demand other concessions, perhaps including things such as stemming aid to Ukraine.
You can see why these are not generally part of general election pitches.
In a recent poll, YouGov commissioned to survey Americans by the Economist, asked what voters expected Republicans to do if they gained control of Congress. There wasn’t broad agreement on any one thing, largely because Democrats and Republicans differed in what they considered likely.
A plurality of poll respondents said that they expected social services to be cut, led by Democrats assuming that would occur. An equivalent percentage of Democrats figured that a Republican Congress would pass a national ban on abortion (something that some members of the House have indeed floated).
The most common forecast from Republicans was that Republican control of Congress would mean that inflation would fall — despite general expectations that efforts to do so would come up short. More than a third of Republicans think that a Republican Congress would cut taxes, which of course introduces the same consideration that accompanies the idea that abortion would be banned: how the GOP might get Biden to go along with any legislation they pass.
For the most part, expectations about what Republicans would do align with what each party hopes or fears would happen. Democrats worry about a national abortion ban so are more likely to say that would follow Republican control. Republicans point to inflation as a central failing of Biden and Democrats, so they assume their party will fix it.
The parties disagree on something else, too: whether Republicans actually will gain control of Congress. Over at FiveThirtyEight, the experts think there are even odds that the GOP will control both chambers next year. Republicans are much more likely to think that will happen. (The figures below use the percentage of respondents who had an opinion on what Congress was likely to look like.) Democrats don’t; about half of them think their party will have House and Senate majorities in the 118th Congress.
What’s interesting about this polling is that it is predictive, asking Americans to go on record about what they think will happen. Most people will be wrong, as is often the case.
But if Republicans do retake both chambers, they can trumpet about having received a mandate for the central promise they made over the course of the election: not doing what Democrats want.