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As crime concerns rise, Democrats scramble to fend off GOP attacks

Democrats are growing confident in their ability to fend off GOP attacks focused on fear of rising crime across the country, with the White House quietly focusing on policies to reduce crime and allies Presidential policies working to counter Republican talking points and recruit candidates with crime-fighting backgrounds.

During Donald Trump’s presidency, shootings began to increase, a trend that accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic. Homicide rates in major cities across the country increased by almost a third in 2020 and have continued to rise so far this year.

While the total number of homicides remains well below the historic highs reached by many cities in the 1990s, the increase in shootings has nonetheless raised concerns among liberals that President Joe Biden and other Democrats could pay a price. election price. Ezra Klein, progressive New York Times columnist worried at the end of last month Rising crime rates could create a “political crisis” for Democrats, and many party strategists – who have previously blamed claims the party wants to “fund the police” for some 2020 losses – have shared privately similar feelings.

The public is clearly concerned about violent crime: a Yahoo News / YouGov Poll found that 49% of Americans described violent crime as a “really big problem” in the country, a higher percentage than the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic, or race relations. The same poll found that only 36% of Americans approved of Biden’s handling of crime, while 44% disapproved. (Biden’s overall approval rating in the poll was 49%.)

Republicans make no secret of their eagerness to attack Democrats on the issue. “It is impossible to ignore that these terrible trends are occurring precisely as the so-called progressives have decided it is time to denounce and fund local law enforcement,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch said. McConnell in a recent speech to the Senate.

But a Democratic victory in a crime-focused special election in New Mexico last week – coupled with a new resolve to push back against GOP claims that the party is weak on crime and the administration’s efforts to highlight how it funds law enforcement – nonetheless has surprisingly optimistic strategists.

“[Biden] has a story to tell about the money he spent on the US bailout that he wants to use to help communities and law enforcement fight crime, ”John told HuffPost Anzalone, the main pollster for Biden’s presidential campaign. “Republicans don’t have this story.

Anzalone noted that experts often believed the spike in crime during the pandemic would benefit Trump, when polls indicated the Republican had little to no advantage on the matter. Even now, the Yahoo / YouGov poll found voters were essentially divided over who would be best able to handle the crime between Biden and Trump.

“Republicans love their wedge issues, and they always come back to the same well,” Anzalone said. “It was going to be the reopening of schools, it was going to be immigration and now it was going to be crime.”

To that end, Democrats expect the White House to spotlight cities and states that are using US bailout funding to hire or retain police officers and point out that Biden has offered to increase funding for US bailouts. Federal programs that help local governments hire officers within its budget and has proposed funding for violence intervention programs as part of its infrastructure plan.

Democrats should also point out that violent shootings have led to an increase in crime; preliminary figures have indicated that many other types of crime have in fact declined during the pandemic and will highlight Biden’s efforts to crack down on so-called ‘guns’. ghosts ”and his appointment as the first permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in nearly a decade.

“President Biden knows that the worrying rise in violent crime – particularly gun violence – since the onset of the pandemic is unacceptable and must end,” White House spokesman Michael Gwin said. “That’s why it takes a holistic approach to reducing violence, ranging from increasing funding to cities to hire more effectively trained and accountable police officers to engage in community-based policing, to invest heavily in community violence intervention programs that save lives. “

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, administrator at the United States Conference of Mayors, said cities across the country should have fired police officers without federal help included in the pandemic relief plan adopted by Congress earlier this year.

“But for these [federal] dollars, cities big and small would lay off workers, find it hard to keep their police and firefighters, ”he said. “Public safety concerns would be exacerbated without these dollars. “

Turner has also paid about $ 25 million in federal funds to mobile crisis units, which the city will use to respond to mental health crisis calls instead of police officers. “This is going to go hand in hand with our police reforms,” Turner said.

While some progressive activists continue to push for large-scale cuts to police funding or the abolition of police services, both ideas remain unpopular in public polls, and Democratic strategists have expressed little concern about at the back of the left.

Crime has become a major issue in several elections this year, including the New York mayoral race, where progressive and moderate candidates have repeatedly clashed over the department’s $ 6 billion budget. In Philadelphia, police unions backed an unsuccessful challenge against Reform district attorney Larry Krasner.

But the race that restored Democrats’ confidence in their ability to fend off crime-related attacks was a victory for Democrat Melanie Stansbury last week in a congressional special election in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city where the crime was high even before the pandemic.

At the start of the race, in a meeting with Black Lives Matter activists, Stansbury said she supported the BREATHE Act, sweeping criminal justice and prison reform legislation backed by just two progressive members of the Congress. The approval gave his GOP opponent, a state lawmaker and businessman named Mark Moores, space to accuse Stansbury of wanting to mass release violent criminals.

Stansbury responded with an ad featuring a retired Sheriff’s Deputy speaking directly to the camera, calling the attacks “lies”.

Stansbury’s victory was never really in doubt, but it ended up gaining 25 percentage points – an even larger margin than Biden’s victory in the District in 2020. This gave Democrats confidence that Stansbury’s approach – not to back down from police reform, but also to enlist the law enforcement to give credibility to your positions be could be a model for mid-term.

“The playbook is this: don’t stop standing up for racial justice, but aggressively respond to Republican lies with specific reforms that you support,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Sean Patrick Maloney, in an interview. “You have to do both. I think it will work across the country.

Maloney, who represents a swinging suburb of New York City, was also optimistic the party could turn the “fund the police” attack on Republicans.

“If there is a party that is for police funding, it is the party that voted against the US bailout,” said Maloney, referring to the coronavirus relief legislation against which the Congressional Republicans voted unanimously.

Democrats are also looking to recruit and field candidates with built-in immunity to GOP attacks. Rep. Conor Lamb, a former prosecutor, is expected to run for an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, even though he will have to win an overcrowded Democratic primary first. In Florida, Representative Val Demings, the former Orlando Police Chief, is the party’s leading candidate to challenge GOP Senator Marco Rubio.

In one campaign launch video Released on Wednesday, Demings repeatedly highlighted his police record, with clips from news anchors noting that crime dropped dramatically in Orlando during his tenure.

But even Demings’ 27-year law enforcement career can’t stop Republican attacks. Shortly after Demings announced his candidacy, the National Republican Senate Committee issued a press release attacking him. The first point? A claim that Demings supported “police funding”.

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