The midterm elections are finally over and in Washington that means it’s time for some finger-pointing, soul-searching and brainstorming.
So, the Republican Party will now begin the difficult task of conducting its postmortem of the 2022 elections in order to learn exactly what happened and to develop innovative strategies for best practices in future election cycles. As the Republican national committeeman from Maryland, I believe we must enter the process with our eyes wide open and without preconceived notions about what works and what doesn’t.
At this critical juncture for the RNC, it would be wise to create a separate coordinated effort – a do it all, do it now approach – for a massive early voting operation plan that complements ongoing legislative and litigation election integrity work. Otherwise, Republicans will never win a national election again.
First, even though we failed to meet our expectations, let’s recognize what went right.
Republicans won the national popular vote convincingly by a margin of 50.6% to 47.8% and won back the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. And despite facing a brutal map in the U.S Senate and being horribly outspent, the Senate GOP only lost one seat previously held by an incumbent in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, while successfully defending open seats in the battleground states of Wisconsin, North Carolina and Ohio.
Republicans also soundly defeated well-financed national Democrat media darlings Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke in important gubernatorial races in Georgia and Texas.
Now, the tough part – and this requires a hard reality check for the Grand Old Party.
In the post-COVID world, Americans are voting differently – that’s a fact. Approximately 43% of the votes cast in the 2022 midterms were done via early in-person voting or mail-in ballots. So, the question must be asked: in the face of an inflation crisis, a border crisis and a crime crisis, and with the incumbent president’s approval rating underwater, would Republicans have picked up more than nine House seats and prevailed in Senate races in places like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada if we had been educating our voters and activists to utilize all voting options available to them, such as mail-in, early in-person, absentee, and day of voting?
The answer is unequivocally yes.
Look no further than Florida’s do it all approach. According to data from the United States Elections Project, nearly five million people voted early in Florida – 43% of whom were Republican ballots, 37% Democrat and 20% other. Republicans won the early vote in Florida by a whopping 315,000 votes, which paved the way for historic statewide victories for Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio and extraordinary success up and down the ballot.
Florida Republicans capitalized on early voting and won big. Now, the Sunshine State is no longer even considered a swing state.
Conversely in Pennsylvania, Republicans failed to vote early and it cost them. Of the 1.18 million people in Pennsylvania who voted by mail, a stunning 69% were Democrat ballots. To put a fine point on it, Democrats cast about 567,000 more mail-in votes than Republicans and Democrat John Fetterman won the election by roughly 263,000 votes.
When you consider that over 700,000 Pennsylvanians had already voted by the end of October, Sen.-elect Fetterman’s horrible debate performance didn’t have nearly the impact that far too many naïve Republicans were betting on.
One of the lasting legacies of the pandemic is that new voting rules were forced into place. One expert noted, “There is substantial voter engagement in this year’s elections… but the larger number of early votes compared to 2018 is more a sign of changing preferences about the method of voting than a sign of much higher turnout.”
To be clear, Democrats pushed to rewrite the laws during the fog of COVID-19 and have an army of lawyers organized to litigate these issues around the country to their benefit. The Democrats play by the laws on the books in every state regardless of how they feel about them – Republicans do not.
The left has been busy cultivating and perfecting their efforts in the areas of early voting, absentee voting, ballot harvesting and curing for years while Republicans for the most part are playing by the historically trusted methods we wish were in place. Republicans must start adapting to the new world by employing every tool that’s in the toolbox in any given jurisdiction.
Simultaneously, Republicans must continue passing legislation and developing litigation strategies state by state that aim to maximize election integrity. Make no mistake, freeing supporters to feel confident about voting early in-person and by no-excuse absentee ballot while advocating for stronger voting laws are not mutually exclusive. For example, Democrats take full advantage of the freedoms provided by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision while at the same time plotting to overturn it.
In states where we have the political numbers to strengthen election laws we must do it – just like with the successful GOP effort that saw 28 states pass legislation to ban or restrict the “Zuck Bucks” style of private election administration funding. One of the next priorities on this front should be to outlaw the horrible practice known as ranked-choice voting anywhere possible.
Voting by mail and ballot harvesting are not my preference by any means. But if we want to get back to holding “Election Day” instead of “Election Weeks” we must compete and win now – because that’s how we can best move the conservative America first agenda forward.
So, we need to challenge ourselves to play by the rules that are written – not the rules we wish were in place. We can’t continue to unilaterally disarm in the battle for America’s future. To be successful, the RNC must take a leadership role by building and executing a winning legislative, litigation and early voting strategy. We must change the hearts and minds of Republican voters on these issues – and there’s no time to waste.
David N. Bossie is president of Citizens United, a Fox News contributor, the 2016 deputy campaign manager for Donald Trump for President, and the former chief investigator for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform and Oversight during the Clinton administration. He is the co-author with Corey Lewandowski of “Trump: America First: The President Succeeds Against All Odds,” along with “Let Trump Be Trump” and “Trump’s Enemies.”