Republican presidential candidates have pointed to physical harm, whether to shoot, kill or otherwise injure people, as a solution for those who commit the most heinous crimes, Reuters reports. Major Republican presidential candidates have long advocated expanding the death penalty, and former President Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, said police should rough up criminals during his 2017-2021 term. Republican strategists say this approach appears to be more common during the current Republican primary race than it was in other cycles. Trump received little political blowback from inside the party for his rhetoric toward crime while in office, when he routinely called criminals "animals" and "thugs," noted Doug Heye, a Republican strategist.
Crime, meanwhile, is a greater concern for voters than it has been in previous elections, even as crime trends are mixed. Reported violent crimes, including rape and murder, declined last year, said an FBI report this week. At the same time, property crime and aggravated assault were up, while the 21,156 murders reported in 2022 were above pre-pandemic levels. Some 88% of respondents in a September Reuters/Ipsos poll said crime would be an important issue for determining who gets their vote in the November 2024 general election. With Trump nearly 40 points ahead of his nearest rival, his opponents are also incentivized to try to break through by putting forward attention-grabbing policy proposals, even those that appear to advocate state violence. "These are potentially policies, but they're also a way of getting attention," said Thomas Zeitzoff, a politics professor at American University. "It's a signal to the base that I'm tough."