Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Republicans have a wealth of political issues that will dominate the 2014 midterm election races and determine their outcome.

The national news media have done their best to try to bury these issues, play them down or sugarcoat them, but the American people know better. They have persistently put these issues at or near the top of every voter poll in the last six years of Barack Obama's scandal-ridden, trouble-plagued administration.

It's hard to break through the power of the Washington news media that have worked hard to cover up the Obama White House's blunders. But this will be the GOP's chief challenge in the next four months as we race toward the fall elections.

Here are the issues Republicans must pound between now and then, and where they stand today:

(1) The Obama economy: No other issue is more critical in the minds of the voters as they have watched the once-mighty U.S. economy grow weaker, repeatedly turning in one mediocre, lackluster performance after another.

Six years into the so-called recovery, economic growth isn't just weak; it was actually shrinking in the first three months of this year by a shocking 2.9 percent. Our exports were anemic, and business inventories were down. It was the worst quarter for economic growth since the middle of 2009.

Obama's been running around the country telling us that manufacturing is exploding. In fact, orders to U.S. factories fell in May by 0.5 percent.

It's not going to get much better. The Federal Reserve forecasts that growth will stumble along at little more than 2 percent this year, held back by Obama's anti-business, anti-growth policies.

(2) That leads to the second most important issue: jobs. The average unemployment rate has fallen to 6.1 percent. But that's largely due to millions of discouraged, long-term jobless workers who have stopped looking for work and thus are no longer counted among the unemployed.

If the same percentage of these adult workers who've dropped out of the labor force were looking for work again, as when President Obama took office, the real jobless rate would be 10.2 percent, says economist Peter Morici at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen says this is one of the most serious problems confronting the economy, and the labor force participation rate is not going away soon. Our once-muscular workforce is shrinking, a disturbing sign of an economy and a nation in decline.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.