Not even a month ago, many in American politics would have told you that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s bid for re-election was not going to survive former president Donald Trump’s wrath. Trump was very much involved in the race against Raffensperger, backing Congressman Jody Hice’s bid to oust the man Trump feels is most responsible for his loss in Georgia.
Raffensperger not only survived that challenge, he beat it without having to go into a runoff. Trump supporters are already claiming that the only reason Raffensperger won is due to Democrats crossing over to vote for Raffensperger. Georgia is an open primary state, meaning those crossover votes can happen. But Raffensperger surviving due to Democratic voters still poses a big problem for Trump-backed candidates like Hice.
You should be sure to thank GA DEM voters. Though they’ll almost certainly switch back for November. https://t.co/jFDKzmJRrw
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) May 25, 2022
If those voters crossed over just to create chaos, you would think they’d go for Hice and cause Republicans to have to spend more time on their in-fighting. Because even if you think Raffensperger helped Democrats win in 2020, he also backed the law touted as “Jim Crow 2.0,” which Stacey Abrams still believes causes voter suppression despite all of the turnout evidence. So backing Raffensperger does not make much sense if the goal is to steal elections. You would want to screw the Republicans over as much as possible.
But, if the goal were to stick it to Trump rather than the Republicans, that is an entirely different – and more likely – scenario.
Trump’s sole focus in the run-up to the midterms has been a focus on the past. The “Stop The Steal” vendetta has turned off a lot of voters. It was David Perdue’s entire campaign strategy, and he got absolutely blown out of the water. The moment Mo Brooks stopped focusing on it in Alabama, he started surging back and forced the establishment pick, Katie Britt, into a run-off. Trump had endorsed Brooks until Brooks began campaigning on moving on from 2020, and Trump switched to backing Britt.
Ahead of the Virginia election in 2021, both Democrats and Republicans had internal polling that showed voters wanted Congress to get to the bottom of the January 6th riot. The Democrats interpreted this to mean that voters cared about it a lot and wanted that to be their focus. The Republicans interpreted it to mean voters were ready to stop talking about it and wanted it to be over with. The Republican interpretation was correct and they won Virginia, starting what appears to be the red tsunami heading for Democrats in November.
The message from voters was clear. Focus on the present and the future. Not the past.
But several Republican candidates are now running on a platform of the past. They want to re-litigate the 2020 election, and voters aren’t having it. They chose Brian Kemp, whose record of success in Georgia inspired a dominating victory over Perdue. Raffensperger’s lowest points were his trying to claw his way out of the mess that was 2020. At that point, his approval was at its lowest. But with the Georgia election law and generally being out of the headlines, he appears to have largely recovered.
Incumbency matters, obviously. The hardest thing to do in most elections is unseat an incumbent. But it helps if your opponent is stuck talking about the 2020 election when voters care more about what’s happening right now. 2020 is in the past, and the key issues right now are literally everything the Democrats have gotten wrong since 2020. And voters look at Raffensperger, see his support of Republicans in Georgia, and know he’s on the winning team. That he didn’t fall into the 2020 trap only helped.
I hope this message gets through. There is so much out there that Republicans can pick up on and win in November. They don’t need to re-litigate 2020 to win. In fact, it looks as though that actually chases voters away.