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Election 2024: Flipping conventional wisdom through conservatives

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(The Center Square) – Once true in close election races was engaged voters siding for Republicans and the less engaged could put Democrats over the top.

Not so in 2024, says the North Carolina executive director for American Majority Action. Coupled with efficiency using campaign dollars, the nonprofit is on the ground running to get conservatives to vote early in his battleground state as well as Arizona, Nevada and Wisconsin.

The effort is also happening in Minnesota and Virginia, the latter a state Republicans lost by 5 points in 2016 and 10 points in 2020 but now trending toward swing status. Former President Donald Trump has a consensus lead over President Joe Biden in statewide polls for battleground states North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, according to Redfield and Wilton Strategies sampling.

“I spend a lot of time studying polls and looking at results across the country,” Dallas Woodhouse told The Center Square in a one-on-one interview this week. “We have a flip this election of what has been the conventional wisdom. That conventional wisdom being, the most engaged voters are going to vote for Republicans and less engaged can put Democrats over the top. So a lower turnout favors Republicans, higher favors Democrats.

“That’s absolutely not true with what we have now. If you look at the polls, Biden is doing the best with people most dedicated in this cycle. People that have a little less propensity to vote are the ones that statistically put Trump over the top. Bottom line is, when really good voters vote first and early, and get off the list, you can move down the list to the least reliable and turn them out and that’ll be the difference in winning and losing.”

Thursday night’s debate – negative for Biden, even by measurements of left-leaning media, and status quo or better for Trump – ripped through Democratic supporters’ contention of a fit 81-year-old. Still, partisan sides have their men, the debate wasn’t going to change that. There was arguably nothing new or anything of substance to spring forward with as Biden planned a stop in Raleigh on Friday and Trump headed for an afternoon rally 185 miles northeast of him in Chesapeake, Va.

Woodhouse says he’s been to about 35 of North Carolina’s 100 counties with a clear message. And he knows the challenges he is up against for voters traditional in choosing to cast a ballot on Election Day.

“We’re out and in a number of counties across the state, key districts, knocking on doors, making calls,” Woodhouse said. “We have a field staff of 25. It’ll grow. The goal is to increase early voting by mail 5% to 10%, increase early voting in person 5% to 10%. If you do that, you increase overall turnout by a couple of percent. A couple of percent could be the difference in winning or losing. We’re going to have 6 million people vote and the governor’s race is going to be about 50,000 either way.

“North Carolina does have a good, safe system and your vote will be counted accurately no matter how you cast it.”

Having people buy in on that is tough. Mainstream media is dominated by a left lean. Those coveting a right lean hear more about troubles in other places.

“At the end of the day, a lot of information that our voters get, they get from Fox News or Newsmax, and they see states that have what I call fundamentally corrupt practices, like legalized ballot harvesting,” Woodhouse said. “That colors their view of how to vote in North Carolina when they’re not comparable. Ballot harvesting, defined as the third-party collection of absentee ballots, is not permitted in North Carolina.”

Woodhouse said he talks to groups about how the Republican majorities in the General Assembly have improved voter integrity. The systems, its checks and balances for recounts, are remarkably strong, he says. Potential corruption, he says, isn’t happening so much through mail issues as it is changing of the rules that “happens right in front of you” after the election cycle has begun.

“When I was state party executive director, we were making a lot of in-roads to get more voters to vote early,” he said. “In 2020, there were a lot of rule changes and complaints from Trump because of the pandemic. It had an effect of lowering confidence that conservatives had in our voting systems.”

And the voting bloc has never been overwhelmingly pleased with voting early or by mail. Republicans get hammered publicly as suppressors of the vote if wanting to oppose Sunday voting or the window allowed for in-person voting.

But truth is, in North Carolina voters generally get a solid seven weeks-plus to vote either by mail, early in person or on Election Day.

For example, for Super Tuesday primaries, the time from mailing out absentee ballots to Election Day was a 45-day window. For the runoffs in May there were 46 days. And this fall, it’s 61 days from mailing out absentee ballots on Sept. 6 to Election Day on Nov. 5.

That’s a lot of opportunity to vote. And for political parties, it’s a lot of opportunity to maximize donations.

Woodhouse said at his trainings, he notes three people sitting alongside each other, hypothetically says they’ll all vote for conservative candidates, and referenda votes will also be identical.

“Because they’re identical, we know their votes count the same,” Woodhouse said. “One requested mail ballot, one voted first day early in person, and the other voted at 6 p.m. Election Day.

“And I explain to them that their votes count the same but don’t count the same.”

As parties examine where to focus field efforts, either by knocking on doors or calls, they head down a list.

“The cost to the political parties, the candidates, that person who requested the ballot by mail and voted early, they get taken off the list,” he said. “They get taken off the list and don’t get calls. Their vote costs $10. The person who voted early in person costs $20. The person that waited to Election Day costs $100.

“All campaigns from Lincoln’s time to now, you work strength to weakness. You spend money to advocate, turn them out.”

And, Woodhouse says, “Conservatives – they do get that.”

Game-changer strategies happen, and are not always forecast.

Barack Obama strutted to the White House in 2008 on the strength of field offices in his playbook. Trump in 2016 bullied roughshod over 17 primary candidates, ultimately prevailing to Americans on his policy for immigration and foreign trade.

For 2024, the page of the playbook is an early start to flip conventional wisdom.

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