Coronavirus has campaigns rushing to put voting by mail at the center of their general election strategies — and some Republicans worry they’ve already fallen behind, as President Donald Trump dismisses the method and drives doubt about mail voting among the GOP base.
Multimillion dollar programs urging mail voting in November are already coming together, as both parties envision a social-distancing election featuring a spike in absentee ballots, according to interviews with more than a dozen campaign strategists, party committees and outside groups. Organizing Together, a field-focused group founded by Obama alumni, is partnering with Priorities USA, the Democratic super PAC blessed by Joe Biden’s campaign, to air digital ads in battleground states educating voters on how to cast ballots by mail. The Democratic National Committee called vote-by-mail programs a top priority.
But while conservative campaigns and groups like Americans for Prosperity are planning to pump more spending into their own mail programs to drive turnout, there is growing concern among Republicans that this month’s Wisconsin elections — which saw Democrats capture a state Supreme Court seat after pivoting aggressively to encourage supporters to vote by mail — demonstrate a lack of Republican readiness to wage a campaign dominated by absentee ballots.
One Republican consulting firm is already developing models that forecast voters’ interest in (or skepticism of) voting by mail, while another GOP firm sent a memo to campaigns urging them that “now is the time to push early and absentee voting.”
“Wisconsin was the stress test on this issue, and it’s clear that Republicans need to get serious,” said one Wisconsin Republican, granted anonymity to discuss the issue candidly. This Republican acknowledged the party was outmatched by Democrats’ efforts on chasing down ballots. “We have to overcome our instinctive hesitation and become more effective at it.”