Campaign

Campaign Report — The GOP’s biggest loser

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago Friday, Nov. 18, 2022 in Palm Beach, Fla. Earlier in the day Attorney General Merrick Garland named a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the presence of classified documents at Trump’s Florida estate and aspects of a separate probe involving the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and efforts to undo the 2020 election. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, tracking all things related to the 2022 midterm elections. You can expect this newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as we make sense of this year’s elections and look ahead to 2024. 

Email us tips and feedback: Max Greenwood, Julia Manchester, and Caroline Vakil.  Someone forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Trump seen as biggest loser in the midterms

Voters are increasingly saying they view former President Trump as the biggest loser of the midterm elections, according to new polling released exclusively to The Hill this week.

A Harvard CAPS-Harris poll found that 20 percent of voters described the former president as “the biggest loser” of the midterm elections and another 14 percent said the same about “MAGA Republicans.”

A rebuke: The data comes after a number of Trump’s endorsed candidates up and down the ballot lost their elections in the midterms earlier this month. The Hill’s Julia Manchester spoke to several Republican operatives and strategists who said they share this same sentiment.

“The policies of Donald Trump were a win, but when the rubber hit the road and Donald Trump reemerged and started handpicking candidates, some of whom were grossly underqualified, I think people were calling it, ‘Oh yeah, the chaos. I can’t take any more of this sh–,’” said Brian Seitchik, an Arizona-based GOP strategist who is also a Trump campaign alum.

Or faulty strategy: However, not all Republicans feel that Trump is necessarily to blame for the GOP’s underperformance on Election Night earlier this month.

“I don’t buy the narrative that Trump is the biggest loser or that the Dems have a mandate,” said Florida-based GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, who argued that a big part of the reason Republicans underperformed in elections, particularly in the Senate, was because the party has not been savvy or aggressive enough with early voting as opposed to relying heavily on in-person Election Day turnout.

Republicans likely to challenge Trump

While Trump may be the first candidate to jump into the GOP’s 2024 primary field, he is not expected to be the last.

The Hill’s Caroline Vakil details the seven Republicans most likely to challenge Trump in 2024: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

For now though, it appears that most of the 2024 attention is on a potential Trump vs. DeSantis showdown.

The most recent Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey found that 15 percent of respondents dubbed DeSantis “the biggest winner of last week’s election.” On top of that, the data found that 46 percent of respondents said they would vote for DeSantis if Trump did not run in the GOP presidential primary.

Long road ahead: However, a number of GOP operatives and strategists warn that it’s too early to be making predictions about 2024, noting that there is a very real possibility that DeSatntis could end up peaking too early. Remember, this would be his first real foray onto the GOP presidential stage.

“There is a real danger in peaking too early in this business, especially when you haven’t set foot on the battlefield and it is a damn grind,” said one GOP strategist.

MORE REPUBLICANS TURN TO EARLY VOTING

While many Republicans are laying blame on Trump and his endorsed candidates for the party’s midterm election losses, others say the party must rebuild its early and mail-in vote programs.

The Hill’s Max Greenwood reports that a growing number of influential GOP leaders and operatives say the party needs to more aggressively compete with Democrats when it comes to early and mail voting, fearing that a failure to do so could cost the GOP in future elections.

“We have to reevaluate both the strategy and the tactics. We had so many close races, but we didn’t do a good job at early voting, we didn’t do a lot of mail-in voting,” Saul Anuzis, a Republican strategist and former Michigan GOP chair, told The Hill. “We don’t like that stuff so we don’t really participate in it.”

POST-ELECTION HEADACHE IN ARIZONA

Meanwhile in Arizona, two counties—- Cochise County and Mohave County—have voted to delay their ballot canvasses due to GOP claims that voters were disenfranchised.

The Hill’s Zach Schonfeld writes that Cochise County, a Republican-leaning area in the state’s southeastern corner, delayed its certification on Friday after three conspiracy theorists claimed the county’s vote-counting machines were not properly certified.

However, Arizona Elections Director Kori Lorick argues that although the labs used to test voting machines did not receive updated certification ahead of the midterms, the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission had confirmed they were in compliance.

Meanwhile in Mohave County five Republicans who comprise the Board of Supervisors delayed their certification of the county canvass in a split vote on Monday. The supervisors have explained the decision as a political statement of solidarity after some in the GOP raised concerns about voting in Maricopa County.

This all comes as Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has claimed without evidence that “many voters” were deprived of their right to vote in Maricopa County, partly because of printer malfunctions in some of the county’s vote centers.

But in the wake of the news surrounding the election process in Maricopa County, the county’s Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates revealed on Monday that the sheriff suggested he move to an undisclosed location as a result of election related threats. Gates said the threats are not getting in the way of his work with the state’s election system.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Campaign page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow. 

Tags Ford O'Connell Ron DeSantis

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