Republicans, Stunned by the Results Tuesday, Have Their Work Cut Out for Them — Starting With Careful Analysis of the Results

There is much to learn from the 2023 elections, and Republicans have studying to do.

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Governor Youngkin on November 7, 2023 at Bristow, Virginia. Win McNamee/Getty Images

The elections this week were a good reminder that the only poll that matters in American politics is the one administered on Election Day. I always look forward to the first precinct results. They begin to disclose who cared enough to vote and who did not think it was worth their time to participate in the exercise of power.

Just as in 2018, 2020, and 2022, Republicans had more negative news than positive. Republicans did last month pick up the governorship of Louisiana. This gave Republicans 27 governorships and the Democrats 23. Republicans retained the governorship of Mississippi.

Importantly, they swept Long Island and picked up another city council seat in the Bronx. They now have eight city council seats at New York City. Confronted with increasingly pro-terrorist members of the Democrat Party, the Jewish community in New York is moving decisively to the Republican Party.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the Democrats did much better than expected. Kentucky was a disappointment but not a shock. Governor Beshear is personally popular, and his father was governor a generation ago. Furthermore, Mr. Beshear ran as a moderate who distanced himself from President Biden.

That means that Mr. Beshear’s victory could hardly be considered a White House achievement. Furthermore, Republicans won the other statewide offices in Kentucky. There is good reason to believe Kentucky will be solid for Republicans next year despite having a Democrat governor.

Virginia was the biggest disappointment for Republicans on election night. Governor Youngkin is personally popular (at 57 percent approval). He raised substantial money and went all out to keep the General Assembly and win control of the State Senate. He failed on both counts.

Probably no defeat needs to be studied and analyzed more than Virginia. What did the voters think the Republican messages were? What did the voters think the Democrats’ messages were? Of everything that happened yesterday, it is Virginia that bothers me the most.

Republicans need to invest in polling and analytical work to take apart both the Democrat and Republican campaigns. To start preparing for the 2024 General Election without first thoroughly evaluating what worked and what failed in Virginia would be professional malpractice.

Anyone who tells you they already know the answers is someone no one should hire. It is really infuriating when someone who was wrong predicting the election immediately gives you a glib answer about the outcome they did not predict and the campaign they did not understand.

The other major challenge for the GOP is the scale of the pro-abortion victory in Ohio. The 56 percent “yes” vote to put abortion rights into the state constitution was a major mandate that Democrats will attempt to use everywhere. Is this what the Supreme Court meant by returning the question to the people?

One of the biggest debates for Republicans will be whether to take abortion as an issue head-on and try to win the argument — or to follow President Reagan’s model, focussing on issues on which he had a huge advantage and addressing less advantageous issues only enough to move back to the issues on which he was winning.

Talking about their victories in Virginia, FP1 Strategies Partner Trent Wisecup said: “The Democrats tried to turn these races into a referendum on abortion. We effectively responded to their attacks, clearly articulated where our candidates stood on this sensitive issue and pivoted to powerful contrasts on crime, taxes, and parental rights that resonated with swing voters.”

“This,” Mr. Wisecup reckons, “is the roadmap for how the GOP can win campaigns in tough suburban districts in a post-Dobbs world.” When I asked Allen Roth if there were some national lessons about New York, he responded: “Yes, the same lessons Republicans should have learned from (Lee) Zeldin’s remarkable run.”

“Zeldin,” Mr. Roth said, “had tens of millions of ads hitting him on abortion as did all the Republican congressional candidates who won in NY. They focused on their anticrime, low tax, agenda and did not take the abortion debate. We ran against the ruinous Democrat agenda.”

Mr. Roth added that “We maximize Trump voters rather than take them for granted. I am pro-life. Placing time limits on abortion does not satisfy me, and it’s insane for Youngkin and (Ron) DeSantis to lead with that issue. It’s not the way to win elections.”

If, Mr. Roth continued, “every Republican candidate listened to John McLaughlin’s advice on what issues to run on, we would be winners. Did you see? We won a Republican City Council seat in the Bronx. The first time in 50 years. In four years, we expanded Republican reps on City Council from one to eight.”

There is much to learn from the 2023 elections, and Republicans have studying to do.

The New York Sun

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