Panelists at a virtual luncheon Thursday said while Republicans have been focusing on inflation, crime and taxes, Democrats have until recently been largely focused on abortion.

WISN-TV “UpFront” host Matt Smith said Democrats in the past few weeks have been widening the issues they’re promoting.

“Locally, there have been some Democratic strategists who are worried that maybe that was too much to focus on this one issue, especially when you look at independents and one of their main concerns is inflation,” Smith said.

UW-Madison Prof. Mark Copelovitch of the La Follette School of Public Affairs noted the partisan difference regarding inflation and noted while media coverage has focused on inflation, the economy is doing “really, really well” compared to 2020.

“To me, that’s a really interesting disconnect of why that is, because gas prices are back down now — below where they were in 2012 and 13 — and people weren’t worked up about inflation,” Copelovitch said. “But they weren’t hearing about it. And they weren’t seeing it in the wake of the major economic crisis.”

Republicans have repeatedly slammed President Biden and other Dems for rising prices, which they have attributed to too much federal spending.

Capital Times Capitol Bureau Chief Jessie Opoien noted when former President Obama visited Milwaukee to campaign with Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, he didn’t shy away from issues like inflation or crime.

“He said, you know, ‘Yeah, these are real issues. But which party do you think is going to do something about it in a way that really benefits you?’ I think that was an effective message,” Opoien said. “But I do wonder if it’s too late.”

The panelists also discussed abortion as a key motivator for Democrats since Roe v. Wade was overturned, either eliminating or putting the right to an abortion at risk in some states.

Opoien said abortion messaging could be more effective for Wisconsin Dems compared to other states where abortion rights aren’t as heavily restricted.

“Wisconsin is at least somewhat unique in that we do have a ban. There is a little bit more of an immediate effect,” Opoien said.

Copelovitch called abortion the “number one motivator” for Democrats.

“I think inflation is really important, but this is the most salient issue for the voters of one of the two parties and of the party of the incumbent governor,” Copelovitch said.

Smith said both parties have concerns about election administration and confidence in the vote count, though Republicans are more concerned than Democrats. Election administration has become a chief concern for Republicans since Donald Trump refused to concede his 2020 loss, claiming massive voter fraud.

Smith noted Republicans, such as U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, of Oshkosh, have encouraged Wisconsinites to vote early and become poll watchers.

“You’ve seen this push by Republicans, especially Senator Johnson, to say, ‘Alright, go vote early so then you can be a poll worker on Election Day’ to have this buffer of people who can watch the process and perhaps better know how the process works, so when the results do come in, that we can have better confidence and the leaders can say they have better confidence,” Smith said.

Opoien said both parties have concerns that fall under the umbrella of “election integrity.” She questioned whether Republicans focusing on the possibility of fraud could lead to more problems for the party.

“You do have to wonder, you know, the more particularly Republicans hammer on that issue, does that eventually become a problem for them? And, you know, does it motivate Democrats on the flip side?” Opoien said.

Copelovitch said Dems, unlike Republicans, aren’t as worried about allegations of widespread voter fraud, but rather about things like “safeguarding democracy” and political polarization.

“We have decades of data showing that large-scale voter fraud doesn’t exist, right? That doesn’t mean that people don’t believe it is a widespread phenomenon,” Copelovitch said.

Watch the event:

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