Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: Your opponent can be defined by their friends

Set up home runs from the beginning

If you are going to swing at Republicans, you swing at them right from the beginning on issues you know split their own base. Do they agree with Lauren Boebert? Where do they stand on a national abortion ban? Should people be free to marry whomever they choose? Where does the Republican in the race stand on protecting health care? Where are they on protecting Social Security? At the state level, where is my opponent on honoring elections? County clerks and secretaries of state in many Republican states are facing challenges from their own. In my own state of Kansas, we still have those who think the 2020 Kansas election was rigged. This in a state where not only is there no proof of that, but Donald J. Trump won the state’s electors fairly easily. Still, some want to go to court and protest.

Put the Republican in a position to divide them away from their own base. Where do they stand? Who are they with, and why? Republicans yell about “the squad,” but it is well past time we yell back. The further Republicans are forced to define themselves on the issues, the more their own base fractures. 

Even some Republican women—yes, some—are concerned about the direction of their own party. We’ve seen it in Kansas with the overwhelming vote to support abortion rights. The more Republican candidates discuss stripping women of their right to vote, removing their rights to reproductive care, and more, the more it is hard to get around the fact that Republicans have lined themselves up with radicals and they simply cannot get away from them.

Where do you stand on Plan B? Where are you on condoms? Where is the Republican candidate on polio vaccination? Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination? Tuberculosis vaccination? I’ve seen another Republican candidate fake his own military service. Can you denounce that kind of behavior? Is your party about stolen valor? 

Republicans are running who have openly talked about killing their ex-wives. Will you denounce violent threats against women and that candidate in particular? 

Show me your friends and I can tell a lot about you, especially whether or not you have a will that can stand up to them when you need to, or if you slink away.

Let me tell you, Republicans running for office in many races all over the country have wills that look like a slinky toy. When pressed to decide, most simply can’t and act as though they are caught like deer in the headlights.

Why? Because they are not certain what they can say without potentially alienating the MAGA voters they have whipped up for years or turning off other voters they need.

At every turn possible, force them to make that decision. Force the Republican in the race to choose their friends. To define themselves by their friends. To stand with their friends on issue after issue or to decide to be their own candidate.

Early home runs start causing a ship to take on water

Early home runs are just the beginning. Of course, as more issues come forward, continue to hammer as hard as you can on the issues that define the campaign. Do not let the frame move, and do not let the Republican candidate get away from defining themselves by their own friends or taking specific support or rejection of issues. Once you have their answer, be prepared to move quickly, because those answers become the leaks in the boat that can sink any ship.

Use their answer and amplify it. A candidate is held responsible for their own stances on issues. The moment the candidate takes a firm stance either way, they have to own it and they cannot escape it. It begins to lower their ceiling of available voters.

All candidates are defined in some way by their floor and their ceiling. Republicans enjoy a high floor—they know that a set number of voters will vote for them just for breathing, regardless of what they say. This can be 40% or more. Some candidates have high ceilings. Often, Democratic candidates have potential high ceilings of opportunities using a coalition of Democratic registered and unaffiliated voters. Both sides seek to increase their own floor to a win and lower the ceiling of the other candidate. Republican candidates see ways to drive Democratic candidates down because the Democratic ceiling is high, but the floor is sometimes difficult to establish.

Using these early home runs, you can continue to define the Republican candidate in a way that can cause Republican campaigns real headaches.

Find the issues, the friends, and the party members in your own state, locally or nationally, and put Republicans on the spot: Are you okay with this? Where do you stand? Don’t let them slink away. Failure to answer is an answer itself, so point that out. How can you refuse to denounce stolen valor? Are you afraid to denounce beating your spouse? You won’t even say if you support a women’s right to vote? Plan B? Social Security? 

Hold feet to the fire, and from now until Election Day, you spend every moment of your time letting your organic supporters echo this message in every way they can, asking others, including their conservative relatives or friends: Why won’t your candidate say where he stands on x?

Force Republicans to own their issues. Lean in as far as you can.

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