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For 2022, GOP Leaders Go All In On The Strategy That Lost Them Georgia

May 10, 2021

By Joe Rothstein

There’s a consensus among political writers that Republicans have the advantage going into the mid-term elections. Historically, the party that doesn’t control the White House usually does. But thanks to Donald Trump and its gutless leaders, the GOP is doing its very best to erase that advantage.

The Lynn Chaney episode is just the latest chapter. The GOP debacle actually began with the January 5 Georgia runoff election for two U.S. Senate seats. Republicans had the advantage there, too. A huge one. A Republican state, two incumbents in a year when GOP incumbents did far better than expected, an unlimited amount of campaign cash, Republican election officials in charge who closed a number of voting places where Democrats do well. And their opponents were a black minister and a young Jewish guy with a thin resume, neither of whom had ever been elected to anything, and both who supported Medicaid expansion, investment in green energy and infrastructure, and voting rights and criminal justice reform.

How do you lose a race like that? The GOP did it by wrapping itself tightly around Trump and campaigning against what they like to call the Democrats’ "radical socialist agenda.”

Losing both of those can’t-lose Senate seats was a devastating outcome for Republicans, costing the party Senate control and opening the way for confirmation of nearly all of Biden’s presidential appointees, a massive and massively popular pandemic relief program, and potentially passage of other programs popular with voters. Clearly, the Republicans’ campaign strategy of buying into Trump’s fantasies and painting Democrats as “radical socialists,” didn’t work in Georgia.

How will Republicans lose a “can’t-lose” mid-term election? By exporting their Georgia strategy to all their 2022 campaigns.

According to the Washington Post, internal Republican Party polling shows that in core battleground U.S. House districts there’s a 15-point gap between those who strongly oppose Trump and those who strongly support him. Those numbers are not in his favor. And according to the Post, the GOP House leadership didn’t share those results with its members. That apparently was one of Lynn Cheney’s sins, arguing that her colleagues needed to know what an anchor Trump is likely to be in the 2022 general elections.

With her ouster from GOP leadership, Trump’s continuing claims that he was re-elected will flow freely through party political strategy, just as it did in Georgia. While a majority of Republicans agree with Trump, party registration is now down to 29%, even below those who say they are independent. Nationally, it’s a claim that 70% of all voters reject.

However unpopular Trump now is, he's likely to be more toxic after the negatives pile up: The bitter Republican vs. Republican primaries he’s fomenting, the investigation into the January 6 insurrection that will eventually get underway, the edging into QAnon territory with its loopy theories, the dozens of pending Trump-involved court cases, some of them criminal and felony-related, all with widespread media attention.

Good luck with trying to win an election waving the Trump flag after all that.

And then there’s the “radical-socialist” thing. Republicans really do seem ready to send their troops into election battle railing against Democratic congressional support for a range of measures that have 2-1 or more public approval. The public even supports, by a wide margin, raising taxes on rich corporations and individuals.

“Radical-socialist” scare talk didn’t work in the Georgia special election even before Democrats had White House and congressional control and the loud megaphone available to sell its agenda.

The irony here is that Republicans actually did have a winning formula in 2020. It was successful in saving vulnerable Senate seats in Maine, North Carolina, Texas, South Carolina and Montana. In the House, Republicans picked up 15 seats held by Democrats and lost only 3 of their own. They added hundreds of state legislators, keeping majorities in important states to control reapportionment, plus in two states where they didn’t have control before, Montana and New Hampshire.

Republicans as a political party won the election of 2020. Republicans won, but Donald Trump lost. If Republicans had adopted their winning formula from November as their Georgia run-off strategy, rejecting Trump’s claims of vote rigging and defending their own party’s state election officials, there’s every reason to believe they would have won at least one of those Georgia Senate seats.

In a rational world, Republicans would be thankful that as a political party they survived a president so unpopular he lost by more than 7 million popular votes, and then became the first president in American history who tried to cling to power through mob violence.

Now, this failure to acknowledge their strength could be their greatest weakness going into 2022.

(Joe Rothstein is a veteran political strategist and author of the award-winning political thrillers, “The Latina President and The Conspiracy to Destroy Her,” and “The Salvation Project.” Rothstein can be contacted a jrothstein@rothstein.net).



Joe Rothstein is a political strategist and media producer who worked in more than 200 campaigns for political office and political causes. He also has served as editor of the Anchorage Daily News and as an adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. He has a master's degree in journalism from UCLA. Mr. Rothstein is the author of award-winning political thrillers, The Latina President and the Conspiracy to Destroy Her, The Salvation Project, and The Moment of Menace. For more information, please visit his website at https://www.joerothstein.net/.