There was a lot of talk after last November’s debacle about the quality of the Republican candidates. It became a familiar excuse for the GOP’s disappointing performance in what was supposed to be a big election for the party. People love to look for simple solutions when doing armchair election postmortem analyses.
The people who weren’t blaming the quality of candidates tended to be in the “our elections are all rigged” camp.
As one who pays attention to politics for a living, I think there were a variety of factors that turned the red wave into a red trickle, with the above two being most prominent. Some of the candidates weren’t ideal, but that’s the case in most elections. As an Arizona conservative, I certainly don’t think what happened in Maricopa County was above board. The Democrats, of course, will say that nothing shady happened here, but I’m not moved when the people behind the wrongdoing insist that they haven’t found any evidence of wrongdoing.
I also happened to think that the party’s overall messaging was beyond weak, but that’s an evergreen complaint. The country is mired in so many negative things because of President LOLEightyonemillion, yet the GOP was unable to craft a positive alternative vision to offer voters. As I have written many times, campaigning on “We’re not those guys,” isn’t a winning strategy, no matter how awful the opponents are.
The 2024 presidential election is far too important to be left to chance. I’m going to focus on candidates in this column, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think election integrity problems should be addressed. There’s only so much I can cover at one time.
Before I offer my opinions, it should be noted that the very establishment types who were whining about Trump and the quality of candidates are the same people who helped orchestrate Ronna McDaniel’s reelection as chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.
Related: A Tale of Two Parties: Ronna McDaniel’s RNC and Regular Republican Voters
This is why I never take the D.C. GOP types seriously.
One thing I know for certain is that the Republican candidates in 2024 can’t blunder into a lot of unforced errors. It’s already an uneven playing field. The Democrats’ propagandists in the mainstream media will be lying about Republicans more than ever in this cycle. Given their history of pathological lying, that’s saying a lot.
The Dems are facing losing the Senate and the White House next year, so they’ll be using every underhanded trick in the book, and some unknown tricks that haven’t been added to the book yet. Yes, it’s unfair, but it’s also reality.
My friend and colleague Stephen Green offered a prime example of an unforced error in a recent column he wrote about Kari Lake:
Arizona’s own Jon Gabriel reported in November that Lake said at a campaign rally: “We don’t have any McCain Republicans in here, do we? Alright, get the hell out… Boy, Arizona has delivered some losers, haven’t they?”
Whatever you or I might think of John McCain, he’s still beloved by many in Arizona. “They don’t make up the majority of the party – not by a long shot,” Gabriel wrote. “But they exceed that single percentage point Lake needed to best Hobbs.”
It was a reckless, clueless thing to say — and might have cost Lake the election even if everything in Maricopa had been completely above reproach.
That’s rarely been discussed since the election. I was a huge champion of Lake’s throughout the election cycle. Last October I wrote that she was probably the greatest thing to happen to the Republicans in 2022. Her comment about “McCain Republicans” came very late in the campaign and was a huge blunder. McCain kept coasting to reelection here long after he lost Arizona conservatives. Mr. Green was being kind when he wrote that Lake’s remarks were “reckless” and “clueless.” They were monumentally stupid.
No candidate in his or her right mind tells members of his or her own party to “get the hell out,” in the homestretch of a campaign.
I’m using Lake as an example because I have a record of being a big supporter of hers.
There are other examples from last year, of course. Mehmet Oz’s infamous crudité video comes to mind. Was it as dumb as Lake’s blunder? No. But it did give the MSM a lot of fodder to deflect from the trainwreck that is John Fetterman for several news cycles.
The phrase “unforced errors” comes up a lot with those of us who have supported Donald Trump but think he’s lacking focus lately.
Trump should be bashing Biden and the Dems 24/7 right now, not trying to pick a fight with Ron DeSantis over their respective pandemic responses. A fight that Trump can’t win, by the way.
Republican candidates need to win hearts, minds, and votes in 2024, not yuks from crowds that are already committed to voting for them. Some focus on priorities would be nice.
There, I think I’ve angered enough people for one column.
I’ll see what I can come up with for next week.
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