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OPINION

Lessons Republicans Should Learn From the Election Losses (but Probably Won’t)

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Matt York, File

It’s frustrating watching Republican candidates lose winnable races. We could argue for days about why those races were lost, but that circular firing squad wouldn’t solve anything or change any results going forward, so let’s deal with the reality of the situation. There are a lot of lessons Republicans need to learn going forward – nominate better candidates, run on issues, etc. – but the most important lesson they can learn is one they likely won’t: that Fox News isn’t real life.

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I know, I know, Fox is where Republicans go to get a fair shake from the media, blah, blah blah. Part of being a Republican is recognizing that you’re not going to get a fair shake from the media, so you’d better learn to deal with it. And while a Hannity or Tucker hit might be great for fundraising, it is a poor substitute for actual campaigning or, dare I say it, local media.

I know, that’s heresy to say, but it’s also true. Nothing against Fox News, I watch Special Report with Brett Baier every night, but while its prime-time lineup dominates the ratings, it still only reaches a tiny fraction of the population. 

I’ll just use round numbers to make it easy, but let’s just say that the average prime time Fox News show has an audience of 3 million people. That’s pretty good and dominates its timeslot. But it’s still less that 1 percent of the population, statistically insignificant when you’re running a political campaign. 

Moreover, if you’re running for the Senate, you’re reaching a tiny fraction of the people who can actually vote for you, which is what elections are all about. If you just take that 3 million and divide it by 50 states, you’re reaching only 60,000 people per state. We know that’s not accurate, there are more people watching Fox News in California or New York than the Dakotas combined, for example, so if you aren’t running a heavily populated states the return on your investment in time is even smaller. If you’re running for the House and you take it down to the district level, forget about it. 

That’s not to say Fox News isn’t useful to candidates or should be ignored, but it can’t be your strategy. In Georgia, it seemed to be Herschel Walker’s strategy. 

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You couldn’t turn on Fox in the time of the run-off without seeing Walker on your screen. He received full-throated endorsements and what would be millions if free airtime and it didn’t matter, he still lost in a state where every other statewide Republican candidate won this year. 

What Walker didn’t do was much local media. Granted, he wasn’t the greatest candidate and didn’t seem to talk that much about what he’d do as Senator, but if you can’t stand up to hostile local media and defend your beliefs (or you simply won’t), you have no business running in the first place.

Walker seemed to think being picked by Donald Trump and on national cable 3-5 nights be week was enough. It clearly wasn’t any more than having won a Heisman and a national championship 40 years earlier was. You have to stand for something, you have to want to do something, or undo something. Whatever it is, you have to tell voters why you’re running and what you’ll do. So many of the failed 2022 candidates seemed to think not being the Democrat was enough.

Most importantly, candidates have to talk to the public, and that includes local media. That breakdown of the Fox audience I gave you earlier is absolutely true, and it’s absolutely the opposite of local media. The audience of local media – print, TV, talk radio – is 100 percent the people who can vote for a candidate. They’re the people campaigns need to reach in the only way that matters: votes.

If you don’t talk to them, or simply aggressively dismiss them out of hand, that plays well nationally. That and $5 will buy you a cup of coffee. It won’t win you votes of people you don’t already have. 

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National media hits are good for fundraising and an important tool for Republican candidates, but it cannot be a strategy for victory. Candidates have to preach to the choir, and the base needs red meat thrown to them sometimes. But if you aren’t expanding the base of people willing to vote for you, you’ll find yourself to be the most wildly popular person at your concession speech. All the national cable news hits in the world won’t change that. 

Derek Hunter is the host of a free daily podcast (subscribe!), host of a daily radio show, and author of the book, Outrage, INC., which exposes how liberals use fear and hatred to manipulate the masses, and host of the weekly “Week in F*cking Review” podcast where the news is spoken about the way it deserves to be. Follow him on Twitter at @DerekAHunter.

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