The secret to Republican victory in 2024 is hiding in plain sight

Many Republicans will be shocked to learn that Election Day 2024 happens long before Nov. 5.

In fact, it hurts the Republican cause – and the elections of President Donald Trump and House and Senate Republicans – to focus narrowly on Nov. 5.

The first election dates are Sept. 16 in Pennsylvania and then Sept. 20 in Minnesota and South Dakota. The next election days are Sept. 23 in Mississippi, and Sept. 24 in Missouri. There are 43 other states and the District of Columbia that follow with their early voting dates. Only Alabama and New Hampshire do not have early voting.

Here’s an example of why this matters: In 2022, the Republican Senate campaign in Pennsylvania was focused on Election Day in November. The campaign did not begin advertising until long after early voting had started. As a result, 40% of Pennsylvanians had already cast their ballots before the first major Republican ad had aired. 

This pattern was not unique to that race.

Republicans have a history of failing to get the vote out early. This has a compounding negative effect. 

First, it means Republican turnout on Election Day must be dramatically higher to make up for the number of Democratic votes already in the ballot box. Second, and probably more important, it means that Republican candidates have not been able to focus on the low propensity voters – those who are least likely to turn out.

The Democrats have focused on early voting in large part because they want to be able to identify everyone who has not yet turned out. That way, they can focus on phone calls, direct mail, text messages, and even visits to remind those voters that they should vote. They keep it going until the people vote, and their name comes off the list.

Republicans have a history of failing to get the vote out early. 

This long campaign approach has proven for the last decade that it is more likely to win close elections than the focus on the federally designated official Election Day.

Shifting Republicans from their focus on Election Day – and their reluctance to vote early – is a major job. Getting it done in one year will require a really focused, determined, and enthusiastic effort. 

The fact is that, despite all the talk about ‘Bank the Vote,’ it had no discernible impact on the special election for New York’s 3rd District. Republicans lost the early voting decisively and simply could not make it up on Election Day. It wasn’t due to any conspiracy. There was a big snowstorm on Election Day which reduced turnout. The Democrats already had a head start on ballots, so they were fine.

Turning around the Republican attitude, getting people to vote early, and creating a new commitment to win the vote throughout the campaign will require new focus and determination.

Every time we focus on Election Day, we undermine and weaken our chances of winning the early vote.