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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Fair Trade Gives Dems Mid-Terms Edge

In nation-wide polls ranking the political priorities of voters, foreign trade rarely scores very high. Indeed the issue is often submerged in voter concerns about “the economy.”
But trade is a major issue this year in key congressional and state-wide elections, reports Molly Hennessy-Fiske in today’s L.A. Times. Hennessy-Fiske focuses on Democratic convert Jack Davis’s campaign to unseat Republican Thomas M. Reynolds from his western NY district as a marquee campaign with trade as a pivotal issue, and she provides an interesting run-down of how the issue is playing out at the state and district level:

With wages stagnating for many Americans, trade has become a significant campaign factor this fall in parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia and other states. In Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina, where manufacturers continue to shutter plants and cut jobs, free trade has become a major issue of campaigns.
In Michigan, Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who is seeking reelection, recently ran a TV ad highlighting her effort to create a “trade prosecutor” to investigate unfair foreign competition.
In Ohio, Republican Sen. Mike DeWine and his Democratic challenger, Rep. Sherrod Brown, have repeatedly sparred over trade, with Brown calling for “fair-trade” policies that hold foreign companies to U.S. workplace standards.
In North Carolina, Republican Rep. Robin Hayes, a textile heir, is under attack from his opponent, a former textile worker, for supporting the Central American Free Trade Agreement last year. Hayes cast the deciding vote

Trade is an issue that clearly has GOP candidates dodging and equivocating, particularly with working-class voters. Democratic candidates who successfully articulate strong “fair trade” arguments in districts hit hard by job losses to foreign trade may have the edge that leads to victory on November 7.

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