Sen.-elect J.D. Vance weighed in Monday on accusations that former President Donald Trump tanked GOP performances in the midterm elections, warning that “so long as Republicans lose so badly in the small dollar fundraising game, Democrats will have a massive structural advantage.”
In an op-ed published in The American Conservative, headlined “Don’t Blame Trump,” Vance writes that “any effort to blame Trump—or [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell for that matter—ignores a major structural advantage for Democrats: money.”
Vance expressed strong support for the former president, who has teased a massive announcement Tuesday, writing that “money is how candidates fund the all-important advertising that reaches swing voters, and it’s how candidates fund turnout operations.”
“And in every marquee national race, Republicans got crushed financially,” he said.
Vance credited this to ActBlue, the Democrats’ national fundraising platform.
“ActBlue is why my opponent ran nonstop ads about how much he ‘agreed with Trump’ during the summer,” Vance said. “It is why John Fetterman was able to raise $75 million for his election.”
The senator-elect noted that Republicans’ small-dollar fundraising efforts were “paltry by comparison” that are inhibited by “high consultant and ‘list building’ fees—where Republicans pay a lot to acquire small-dollar donors.”
“This is why incumbents have such massive advantages: much of the small-dollar fundraising my own campaign did went to fundraising and list-building expenses,” he explained. “If and when I run for reelection, almost all of it will go directly to my campaign. Democrats don’t have this problem. They raise more money from more donors, with lower overhead.”
Vance also pointed out that “higher propensity voters,” especially suburban white voters, are increasingly Democratic while much of the Trump base “just doesn’t turn out in midterm elections.”
“This problem is exacerbated by Democrats’ strong advantages in states that have expanded vote by mail,” he continued. “In the short term, as illustrated last week, those advantages serve as a reminder of the need for voting reform in this country, modeled on success in states like Ohio at running clean, fair elections: establishing fair but appropriately narrow windows to return ballots; implementing signature verification; conducting all pre-election work necessary to facilitate rapid tabulation of early votes when polls close; and implementing national photo ID requirements to ensure elections are secure.”
Grumbling about Trump will not help in the long term, Vance said, calling for Republicans to build a “turnout machine.”
“But building a turnout machine without organized labor and amid declining church attendance is no small thing,” he continued. “Our party has one major asset, contra conventional wisdom, to rally these voters: President Donald Trump. Now, more than ever, our party needs President Trump’s leadership to turn these voters out and suffers for his absence from the stage.”
Vance emphasized that efforts to “pin blame” on Trump rather than on money and turnout distract from the real issues that Republicans need to deal with in the long term.
“Indeed, one of the biggest changes I would like to see from Trump’s political organization—whether he runs for president or not—is to use their incredible small dollar fundraising machine for Trump-aligned candidates, which it appears he has begun doing to assist Herschel Walker in his Senate runoff,” he added.
“Blaming Trump isn’t just wrong on the facts, it is counterproductive,” Vance concluded. “Any autopsy of Republican underperformance ought to focus on how to close the national money gap, and how to turn out less engaged Republicans during midterm elections. These are the problems we have, and rather than blaming everyone else, it’s time for party leaders to admit we have these problems and work to solve them.”
Vance campaigned on issues including curbing government spending, restoring America’s manufacturing base, solving the border crisis, putting America first, and ending abortion. He defeated Democrat Tim Ryan in the Ohio Senate race last week.
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