If Republicans want to avoid an embarrassing letdown in 2024 like they experienced in 2020 and 2022, they need to stop being stupid.

Seriously, that’s it.

All too often, Republicans just keep moving forward with the same strategies and tactics, while Democrats think on their feet and adapt. This was readily apparent in the past several cycles, when expected Republican gains completely failed to materialize.

First and foremost, Republicans need to stop bemoaning certain aspects of the electoral system that they dislike and learn how to use them to their advantage – as Democrats have. They should be encouraging their supporters to use mail-in ballots and participate in early voting, rather than complaining about those options. Getting those reliable votes in as soon as possible has proven to be a successful strategy for Democrats; Republicans need to start doing the same. It simply makes sense.

During this cycle, as a reliably Republican voter living in a heavily contested area, I faced a constant deluge of mailers from state and federal candidates alike. That was a complete waste of money, regardless of which particular entity was paying for it – and Republicans, at least here in Maine, didn’t have a ton of money to waste. If, instead, Republicans had encouraged me to vote early – and then revised their mailing list based on which of their voters had done so – they could have at least saved a few bucks on some mailers. That would have been the wise approach, given their limited resources.

The same can be said for ranked-choice voting and clean elections in Maine. As with many other so-called reforms, they may not accomplish very many of their supposed goals, but once they’re implemented it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of them. Rather than figuring out how to use these systems to their advantage as Democrats have, Republicans continue to complain about them. Republicans could have, for instance, recruited a conservative unenrolled candidate in the Second District who might have helped motivate some of their base to the polls without splitting the vote. They could have recruited a liberal unenrolled candidate in the gubernatorial race.


In other parts of the country, Democrats gambled on a risky strategy of promoting extreme candidates in primaries who would be less competitive in the general election, and for the most part it worked. Both here in Maine and all over the country, Republicans need to work overtime to start doing the same thing. Nationally, Republicans lost several winnable races thanks to this strategy – and their lack of an effective means to counter it. They can’t allow this to happen again; we saw the failure of sitting out primaries in a number of key Senate races. Leadership should not only be involved in primaries, they should recruit their own far-right candidates in areas where they’re concerned about the primary in order to split that vote.

This approach doesn’t just work in the primaries, either; it can be utilized in the general election, especially in Maine where it’s easier for unenrolled candidates to qualify for the ballot. This can take the form of a three-pronged approach: finding and/or boosting liberal unenrolled candidates, running moderate conservatives as independents in certain districts, and recruiting flawed candidates for the Democratic nomination in any district where there’s a vacancy.

For a few cycles now, liberal-leaning unenrolled candidates have been running in some districts without having a Democratic nominee in that district; Republicans shouldn’t be letting them get away with it. If anyone decides to run for the party nomination in a particular district, the state party can’t keep them from being on the ballot; all they can do is denounce them publicly and refuse to spend money there. That’s just fine; it has the advantage of sowing dissent within the opposition party and forcing them to take some awkward political gymnastics.

This approach to campaigns may seem unsavory (and it is) but if the other party is willing to go down that road, it’s foolish to let them get away with it. It would be better for democracy if neither party campaigned this way, but if one party does it and it works, the other party either has to start doing the same thing – or at least scream from the rooftops about their opponents’ tactics.

So far, Maine Republicans have been unwilling to do either. If they like losing, that’s an excellent strategy. If they’d like to win an election again, they might want to reconsider their methods.

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