BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Heading into a midterm election with prices still soaring — and Democrats in control of the White House and Congress — inflation is expected to be top-of-mind for voters and a potential handicap for the Democratic party.
“Regardless of who the quarterback is during a football game when the team loses even if it’s not his fault, that’s the person who gets the blame and we’ve seen that happen with Joe Biden,” Democratic Political Analyst Neel Sannappa said.
It’s an issue hitting almost every corner of the country. Nationwide the consumer price index rose 8.6% in May from the year before, the largest increase since 1981. But as Republican Political Analyst Cathy Abernathy points out, it can be especially burdensome for voters in Kern — a county in a state that often leads the way on red-hot costs.
“It’s higher expenses because even though it’s Kern County, we’re in the state of California, which has the highest gas tax so that’s on top of everything else you pay,” Abernathy said.
Abernathy says voters’ concerns over inflation could bolster some GOP candidates running in the Central Valley’s blue-leaning districts. Sannappa says it could be another reason Democratic voters in the Valley aren’t motivated to hit the polls.
“I know that a lot of people are going to be apathetic, they aren’t going to want to turn out,” Sannappa said.
It could be a key factor in the Central Valley’s ultra-competitive toss-up districts — the 22nd congressional in particular — where each party is looking for any edge to beat out the other.
We’ve already started to see it play out, with Republican incumbent in the district David Valadao running ads highlighting his objection to economic policies under Democrats, saying he is working to suspend the state’s gas tax.
The only Democrat in the race, current Assemblyman Rudy Salas, consistently points to 2017 when he voted no on a transportation bill that increased the gas tax.
“I was the only Democrat to vote no on the gas tax in the State Capitol,” Salas said.
Sannappa believes the high prices under Democrat-led Washington and California is a concern blue candidates should acknowledge, but is not necessarily a deal-breaker.
“I think we can overcome that but I think it’s definitely a challenge,” Sannappa said. “I think it would be a mistake to not recognize it as a challenge.”