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Campaigning on Trump is political malpractice. Why are candidates doing it?

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Never Trumpers center their campaign on Jan. 6. Team MAGA wants to overturn the last election, and the rest slavishly weigh in on the Twitter story of the hour.

A few candidates are revving up their 2022 campaigns here in Arizona and across the country. But several are running like they’re stuck in 2020.

One real-world example was last week’s GOP sweep in Virginia. Democratic favorite Terry McAuliffe focused on three issues: Trump, Trump and Trump. Glenn Youngkin focused on what voters actually cared about.

The Republican mostly ignored McAuliffe, totally ignored Trump, and pushed for lowering the state’s grocery tax to fight inflation, encouraging parental involvement in education and improving job creation.

Not only was Youngkin elected, but voters gave the other two big offices to GOPers as well. Lt. Gov.-Elect Winsome Sears is the first Black woman and Attorney General-Elect Jason Miyares is the first Hispanic candidate to win a statewide office in Virginia.

Running on current issues matters more than running on the past. Imagine that.

More candidates should care about inflation

I guess some candidates think they know better than the voters. Never Trumpers center their campaign on Jan. 6. Team MAGA wants to overturn the last election, and the rest slavishly weigh in on the Twitter story of the hour.

None of this is relevant to voters now, let alone in November 2022.

Does anyone believe the most important issue to Arizonans next year will be Cyber Ninjas or a Mar-a-Lago retiree being censored by big tech? No one will be elected in 2022 running a campaign stuck in 2020.

Republicans love shooting inside the tent, but Democrats are hardly immune to this short-termism. Take the White House narrative on inflation, an issue economists have warned of since spring.

On May 7, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen claimed, “I really doubt that we’re going to see an inflationary cycle.” A week later, filling up my car had jumped to $40.

In June, President Biden dismissed growing concerns. “Some folks have raised worries that this could be a sign of persistent inflation. But that’s not our view.” Don’t believe your lying wallets, America.

This week, we learned inflation is at 6.2%, a 30-year high. “Did you ever think you’d be paying this much for a gallon of gas?” Biden asked incredulously.

Yes. Yes, we did. Earlier this week it cost me $50 to fill up the tank. And don’t get me started on my grocery bill.

Look to the future, not to the past

What did all that short-sighted happy talk get the White House? Winning a daily news cycle? The only win that matters to Democrats or Republicans is next November.

There’s an old business maxim that also applies to politics: underpromise and overdeliver. The White House has chosen overpromising and underdelivering on the economy, Afghanistan, their legislative agenda and everything else. How they think this won’t burn them is beyond me.

The goal for every aspiring politician is to figure out what will best motivate voters on Election Day and hone their message the closer the day gets. It’s not going to be Donald Trump; he ain’t on the ballot. It’s not going to be today’s trending story on social media; that will be forgotten next week.

Inflation will likely still be with us. Maybe Sen. Kyrsten Sinema knew that spending an additional $2 trillion would hurt her friend Mark Kelly’s chances next year. Supply chain issues are still being ignored, so offer some helpful policies on that. And chances are China or Russia will create a foreign policy crisis, so keep your eyes peeled.

Local issues are far simpler. More jobs, improved education and a strong economy always top the list. Maybe focus on those instead of the latest revelation from QAnon.

Focusing your campaign on the past is not only self-defeating, it’s political malpractice.

Jon Gabriel, a Mesa resident, is editor-in-chief of Ricochet.com and a contributor to The Republic and azcentral.com. On Twitter: @exjon.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Candidates remain stuck on Trump and 2020. That will bite them in 2022