Feb 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

GOP eyes working-class future

House GOP freshmen

House GOP freshmen on Jan. 4, with Leader Kevin McCarthy (left) and Rep. Rodney Davis of House Administration Committee. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Republicans, long reliant on big business and the rich, see a post-Trump future centered on working class white, Hispanic and Black voters, top GOP officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is a substantial shift, born of necessity and the post-Trump reality. It would push Republicans further away from the interests of corporate America and traditional conservative ideas like entitlement reform.

Top Republican officials tell Axios that if the party is going to survive, it needs to copy Donald Trump’s fixation on blue-collar voters in 2016 and working-class and minority voters in 2020 — and ditch, or at least downplay, allegiance to big business. 

  • So instead of Republican leaders talking about reforming Medicare or Social Security, you'll hear them talking about protecting entitlements.
  • Instead of corporate tax cuts, job "stability" will be a campaign theme for House Republicans as they try to win the majority in next year's midterms.

What's happening: Numerous corporations are cutting off money to a big chunk of Republicans who refused to certify the Joe Biden victory.

  • At the same time, Trump showed Republicans how to invigorate not just working-class whites, but also some Hispanic and Black voters, especially men.

The big picture: Recent polling shows Republican voters no longer coalesce around tax cuts and entitlement reforms.

  • Instead, there's a substantial divide — and many signs their future might rest in protecting traditional workers and traditional values.
  • In a YouGov poll of 1,000 Trump 2020 voters for AEI, 42% described themselves as working class — about the same share as evangelical Christians.

Two champions of the new GOP are House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who was chair of the Senate Small Business Committee before Democrats took power last month.

  • McCarthy told Punchbowl News this week that "the American worker" will be one of his three focuses between now and the midterms, along with immigration and "fighting back against socialism."
  • Rubio said in a speech in December that Republicans can capitalize on the current political realignment by being a "pro-worker party."

So you'll see more scenes like this week, when McCarthy is in Texas and will tour an oil rig — in addition to raising money.

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