Mar 14, 2022 - Economy

Inflation is hitting battleground states worse

Increase in inflation, by metro area
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Table: Thomas Oide/Axios

Price hikes affecting Americans nationally have been even worse in battleground states since the beginning of the pandemic, Axios found.

Why it matters: Some of the most sensitive voters politically are the ones feeling price hikes most sharply. During an already volatile midterm year for Democrats, inflation concerns have prompted the party to focus its messaging on lowering costs and cutting taxes.

The details: Axios calculated the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index from February 2020, just before the pandemic, to last month, which provided the latest data available.

The difference was then compared to the national average.

The CPI's U.S. city average in February 2020 was 257.97; in February 2022, it was 281.15 — a growth of 8.2%.

  • Inflation in urban areas in Florida, Georgia and Arizona has been significantly higher than that U.S. city average.
  • In the Atlanta area, the change was 11.7%. In Florida, the Tampa- and Miami-area differences were 11.8% and 10.2%, respectively. In the urban areas in Arizona, the difference was 10.7%.
  • In West Coast cities, including the Nevada battleground of Las Vegas, the difference was 8.4% — just higher than the U.S. national city average.

Thought bubble: The higher rates in these battleground areas stem from the fact they possess characteristics correlating with high inflation, Axios’ chief economic correspondent Neil Irwin says.

  • They include factors such as an influx of residents and lots of college-educated adults.
  • They earn higher salaries, tend to bid up rents and have sufficient disposable income, allowing restaurants and stores to raise prices.

What we’re watching: President Biden has made a concerted effort to blame recent gas price hikes on the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, illustrating the Democratic pushback on inflation.

  • Biden argues the pain Americans are feeling at the pump is a direct result of Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
  • The question is whether timely political messaging will be enough for Democrats to win over vital voters in their quest to keep their congressional majorities.

What they’re saying: David Bergstein, spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, painted a contrast between Democrats and Republicans in a statement to Axios. He argued it would be what ultimately leads to Republican losses in 2022.

  • “While Senate Democrats are fighting to lower costs and cut taxes, Senate Republicans want to raise taxes on over half of all Americans and spike the cost of health care," he said.
  • A Democratic operative working on Senate battleground campaigns said that beyond making an argument about lowering costs, some candidates will be adding a "more populist" message around price gouging, and holding corporate America accountable.

Addressing the annual House Democratic retreat last week, the president said the party needs to do a better job explaining inflation to Americans “just trying to stay above the water.”

  • He specifically noted their messaging needs to focus on the idea that price hikes are not a result of government spending.

The other side: Republicans aim to capitalize regardless of the explanation.

  • "The Democrats’ ever-changing and increasingly incoherent arguments for why they're not to blame are an insult to the intelligence of the American people," Chris Hartline, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told Axios.
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