Republicans are changing their tune on mail-in voting, but Donald Trump is still questioning its validity.
GOP operatives privately concede the former president undermined their midterm election chances by discouraging voters from casting ballots through mail and claiming widespread fraud had cost him the 2020 election, although few Republicans have publicly blamed Trump for the losses, reported Politico.
“We can sit here and talk about mail-in voting and use that as an excuse but that’s like an alcoholic saying they’re not going to drink gin anymore, just beer,” said one top GOP campaign official. “We have 99 problems and mail-in voting is one.”
Republicans have long claimed that efforts to expand voting access would result in fraud, which Trump amplified during both of his election campaigns, and that attitude may take awhile to uproot.
“Republican states are rightly taking steps to ensure elections are safe and secure," said a GOP strategist who worked in Georgia for this election cycle. "Our problem now is a messaging and operational one. We start by throwing out the Trump B.S. lies and telling people the truth about their votes and the power of their vote. Who would have imagined telling people, ‘the election is rigged’ and then asking them to vote wouldn’t work?”
Republicans have fought numerous court battles to roll back efforts to expand voting access, but some party insiders say that strategy may have backfired.
“Republicans spent an inordinate amount of time complaining about and suing over election rules,” said Kevin McLaughlin, the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2020 election cycle and director of the conservative nonprofit the Common Sense Leadership Fund. “Imagine how effective we would be if we spent even half that time developing a strategy, and, call me crazy, turning out voters.”
Polls have shown that Democrats, Republicans and independents all participated in early voting between 2004 and 2017 as more states expanded opportunities to do so, but GOP voters fell off sharply starting in 2020, and Republican acceptance of early and absentee voters dropped by 20 points, from 62 percent to 42 percent, since 2018.
"If you wait until Election Day, you're starting a race where you're 30 yards behind," said House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy on Fox News. "Republicans in the past, we had an advantage because we would vote early, we would vote by mail, and we put that away."
But Republicans have been reluctant to blame Trump by name, even as they concede that mistrust of election administration is a problem.
“Our voters need to vote early," said Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. "There were many in 2020 saying, don’t vote by mail, don’t vote early, and we have to stop that, and understand that if Democrats are getting ballots in for a month, we can’t expect to get it all done in one day."
Some Republicans, including Fox News hosts, are blaming McDaniel for the lackluster midterm performance.“She’s a wonderful person, but the results do speak for themselves,” said Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “It's time for change at the RNC. Her tenure needs to come to an end.”