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Republicans know they have a problem with relying on Election Day voting

Republicans weigh in on Trump following Georgia Senate runoff
Republicans weigh in on Trump's impact on Georgia Senate runoff election 05:22

In the wake of a poor midterm election performance that culminated Tuesday night with a loss in the U.S. Senate race in Georgia, Republicans are acknowledging the perils of relying on Election Day voting.

Former President Donald Trump has disparaged early voting and voting by mail, even as he cast absentee ballots, and conditioned party voters to distrust those methods. In a Truth Social post last week, he continued to blast mail in voting, saying "you can never have fair & free elections with mail-in ballots--never, never, never. Won't and can't happen!!!"

But after failing to gain control of the Senate, losing a seat in the process, and underperforming in House races across the country, Republican operatives and lawmakers are now issuing a wakeup call to their party to take early voting seriously.

"If you wait until Election Day, you're starting a race where you're 30 yards behind," House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News' Sean Hannity Tuesday night as the Georgia election results came in. "Republicans in the past, we had an advantage because we would vote early, we would vote by mail, and we put that away."

Georgia Holds Senate Runoff Election Between Rafael Warnock And Herschel Walker
A voter casts his ballot at a polling station for the U.S. Senate runoff election on December 6, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Alex Wong / Getty Images

RNC chair Ronna McDaniel conveyed a similar sentiment in another Fox News interview on Tuesday. "Our voters need to vote early," she said.. "I have said this over and over again. There were many in 2020 saying, 'Don't vote by mail, don't vote early.' And we have to stop that and understand that if Democrats are getting ballots in for a month, we can't expect to get it all done in one day."

Missing from their assessments, however, was any mention of Trump's role in disparaging such voting methods.

The gap between the two parties when it comes to support for mail-in and early voting has grown under Trump. Gallup polling research shows that between 2004-2017, Democrats, Independents and Republicans all steadily increased early voting as more states expanded opportunities to do so. But in 2020, they found a sharp decline in early voting intentions among Republicans. 

And research from Pew finds that 62% of Republicans say voters should only be allowed to vote early or absentee with a documented excuse, compared to 42% who thought the same in 2018. 

Meanwhile, Democrats have incorporated early and mail in voting as a key part of their campaign strategy. In Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock won early voters by roughly 16 percentage points, heading into Election Day with a 300,000 vote lead. 

Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana said Republicans have to "start accepting the tools" of voting early or by mail. "Anybody that wants to stick with just voting on Election're setting yourselves up for logistical issues," he said, noting that having run a business for 37 years, "I never want to have to get something done in one day." 

"We have got to do a better job as Republicans telling our voters, go vote," said Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, a staunch Trump ally. "Don't wait until the last day, don't wait for it to possibly rain. Don't wait for bad weather...we've gotten hammered."'

Kabir Khanna contributed to this report.

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