by Bob Barr
For all the potential merit the Trump campaign’s post-November 3rd campaign election lawsuit strategy might have possessed at the start — posing intriguing constitutional challenges and a platform for evidence of voter fraud — as a strategy to win two Georgia Senate runoff elections yesterday, it was, shall we say, problematic.
Runoffs, especially in Georgia, historically and almost always, turn on three things: voter turnout, voter turnout, and voter turnout. And at this moment, with both Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler’s projected defeats, Democrats appear to have done a better job. This is a reversal of the situation prevailing for three decades in the Peach State; years in which state and local GOP workers and organizations kept their messages focused and relevant to the campaigns and to the runoff candidates.
In years past, Republicans marshaled their voter databases down to the block level, and micro-organized their get-out-the-vote effort to reach voters most likely to vote in the runoff in numbers sufficient to overcome efforts of their Democrat rivals, who, until the last two cycles, were slow to adapt. That now has changed with a vengeance, presenting serious challenges for the Republican effort moving forward.
Evidence of shenanigans at vote counting rooms in Democrat-controlled counties are real, and this accounts for some of the Democrat margins. And yes, the mail-in ballot verification procedure pressed by failed 2018 Democrat gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, which strangely was agreed to last Spring by Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State (not the Governor, who President Trump continues to vilify) made it far easier for illicit votes to be counted. And yes, going forward, the GOP-controlled Georgia legislature which is scheduled to begin its 2021 session within days, must change those procedures in order to improve the chances that future elections will be, to at least some degree, less flawed.
But continuing to focus exclusively or even primarily on this aspect of the problem is not a winning strategy for the GOP.
What can be a winning strategy for Republicans is one that meaningfully improves its ground game and presents a message to voters that is substantive, positive, clear, consistent, and relevant.
One example makes the point regarding the ground game. Twenty years ago in the Atlanta metro area, suburban subdivisions constituted the topsoil from which voters could be harvested and encouraged to vote, especially in the short time limits in which runoffs are conducted. Today, that is a far less efficient way to reach voters and encourage them to vote. Democrats came to this conclusion in recent years, and began to deploy their people and put their money into identifying, visiting, and registering voters in other areas that in the past were largely ignored or overlooked.
Democrat fat cats apparently realize this also, and have been making funds available to state and local parties with which to buy and manipulate voter databases, and then visit these newer, often younger and first-time voters. Republican Party officials, who in the past have often looked down on paying canvassers in favor of volunteers, need to shift their thinking and resource allocation on this aspect. Finally, GOP donors need to be far more willing than they now are to open their wallets in support of these efforts.
Finally, however, in the short term and to regain the majority in the House in 2022 (which is a realistic goal), the Republican Party absolutely must move beyond the November 2020 election and develop a message that is clear, consistent, substantive, and relevant to real voters.
If the GOP presents itself as the victim, then it should come as no surprise that it will continue to be just that — a victim; and victims are not perceived to be winners. Winners are candidates and political parties that stand up and articulate a strong, consistent message composed of meaningful and relevant measures with which the “average” voter (especially small business owners and families) can identify. If we do this we will be perceived and treated not as victims to be pitied, but rather as fighters with an agenda who are deserving of winning.
Republicans have done this before, and we can do it again; but, if we do not shift gears and start that reformation right now, time and Democrats will solidify their recent gains into a new and terrible socialist status quo.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and was the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986 to 1990. He served as an official with the CIA during the 1970s.