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Tipsheet

GOP Voters Did Turn Out, But Many Defected to the Democrats

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

I was wrong about split-ticket voters. Given the politically charged climate and partisan atmosphere, a more united GOP was assumed going into 2023. As more exit data is crunched, one thing is clear: the Republicans didn’t have a turnout issue—it’s that some of their base voters, including GOP-leaners, defected to the Democrats. The flip side is why these voters back a party that has plunged this nation into a recession and saddled it with high inflation. The Biden agenda isn’t popular, and neither is Biden himself, but it appears that voters opted for stability instead of chaos in the season chock-full of Trump-backed candidates. 

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I can't entirely agree with that sentiment, but it’s a blow to a party with all the makings to ride a red wave into power. A man who can’t form a complete sentence and is not mentally fit won a Senate seat in Pennsylvania. I don’t know if that says more about the state of the Republican Party or the American electorate, but it’s clear that there are enough voters who are getting tired of Trump’s schtick, which has 2024 implications.

Again, I still like Trump, but we must win in 2024. The GOP cannot accomplish that if whole swaths of the base—and its leaners—opt to hold their noses and support Democrats out of fear of pandemonium engulfing Congress. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn analyzed the data and found that the Georgia electorate was seven points more favorable to the GOP in 2022 than in 2020. We still lost that Senate race to Raphael Warnock:

The theory seems to be that Republicans are losing because early voting is giving Democrats a turnout edge. It follows a similar conversation after the midterm elections, when a chorus of conservatives said Republicans needed to start encouraging mail voting. 

But as more data becomes available on turnout in this year’s election, it is quite clear that turnout was not the main problem facing Republicans. 

In state after state, the final turnout data shows that registered Republicans turned out at a higher rate — and in some places a much higher rate — than registered Democrats, including in many of the states where Republicans were dealt some of their most embarrassing losses. 

[…] 

Georgia is a fine example. While Mr. Walker may blame turnout for his poor showing in November and earlier this week, other Republican candidates seemed to have no problem at all. Gov. Brian Kemp won by nearly eight points over Stacey Abrams; Republican candidates for House won the most votes on the same day. 

[…] 

We went back and looked at the respondents to our pre-election Times/Siena survey, and matched them to post-election vote turnout records. We found that the respondents who said they backed Mr. Walker were actually likelier to vote than those who said they backed Mr. Warnock. 

[…] 

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Democrats enjoyed a great turnout. All of the Republicans running for statewide office — other than Mr. Walker — could have easily survived an electorate that was two points less favorable. 

By our estimates, the 2022 electorate was several points more favorable to Republicans in Georgia than the 2020 electorate — which wasn’t great for Democrats, either. 

Any Democratic gains in the runoff almost certainly weren’t because of early voting. After all, this election was held with just one week of early voting, as opposed to three weeks in the general election. The number of Election Day voters actually increased in the runoff. So did the share of votes cast on Election Day. But it was the Democrat who fared better. 

[…]

It’s fair to say voters in these key states probably preferred Republican control of government, in no small part because more Republicans showed up to vote. They just didn’t find Republican candidates they wanted to support at the top of the ticket.

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Remember when Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY) said that 2022 would be a disaster for the GOP because of candidate quality? His argument just got a boost. Whether you agree with it is up to you—I’m not one to pass judgment. The people wanted Blake Masters and Herschel Walker to win their primaries in Arizona and Georgia, respectively. Now, candidate quality is a debate warranted if the person is nuts, a racist, a felon, or has any disqualifying qualities. Master and Walker didn’t—they just weren’t liked by the establishment, and these findings will be weaponized to interfere in primaries next cycle. I see arguments for both, as one candidate might look infinitely worse than others, especially when you poll head-to-head matchups against Democratic candidates. But the people have the right to choose, and anger will certainly increase tenfold if the RNC tries to tell people what to do. If anything, that could be a massive boon to the anti-establishment candidate; voters will back them out of spite.

I’d also say that the part about early voting is a red herring. We should strive to create ballot harvesting operations of our own, despite the shady side of it because we can’t leave anything to chance anymore. I'm not too fond of it, but if it is legal—we have to compete with the Democrats.

I’ll let you debate among yourselves below. If the establishment person is better, they should win the primary without outside help, right? Just putting it out there, but I can also see a case where a must-win race needs some backing from outside. We’ll come to that juncture in a few months.

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