Craig Otto of Magnum Radio recently interviewed Take Back Our Republic Action’s John Pudner on why there was no "red wave"and the huge money advantage liberals enjoyed both in Wisconsin and throughout the country. The transcript below is very lightly edited.
Republicans, Democrats, doors, spend, nationally, heavily funded, abortion.
John Pudner and Craig Otto.
Craig Otto 00:00
Now that you’ve had about a couple of days to kind of think about it here, is there anything that your campaign could have done a little better to win the race (Michels vs. Evers Wisconsin Gubernatorial race) here on Tuesday night?
John Pudner 00:06
Yeah, certainly, there were things you can look back on and can do better, but, 10 days out, I thought it looked tough. I thought it could be pulled out, but even my internal memos were, “We really need to overcome several things to get a one-point win.” That was the ceiling. The other side just had such a heavily funded ground game. Everyone saw the TV, but, the door knocks were so overwhelming. Republicans got a little spoiled in 2020 because Democrats stopped knocking on doors because of Covid, but they just had an unlimited budget to pay anyone who would go knock on doors and had really strong messaging. So, we really got overwhelmed not only on TV, but on the doors, and could have snuck through if it had been a really good Republican day overall, but short of that, I just don't think we could have got there in the year that happened.
Craig Otto 00:58
I saw you mentioned this in an email...those texts that were allegedly on behalf of the former third-party candidate in this race. Do you think that hurt you at all potentially or no?
John Pudner 01:06
It only hurt us because we had to spend a lot of time on them. So…because she was polling 4- 5%, and we had to get that down to 1%, and we did, we were very aggressive in responding, and she was great at helping us. But, it's just one of those things when you're already getting outspent, so you have a lot more door knockers on the other side, and a lot more TV, and then you spend several days making sure a third candidate doesn't take 5% of your vote away. You have to do it but it takes away from your other activities. So, it hurt us in that way, but we got her down to 1%, which was always our goal.
Craig Otto 01:45
Surprised it’s not a "red wave" nationally?
John Pudner 01:48
No, I thought there was a lot of naivete on the Republicans once the Dodd decision hit (overturning Roe v. Wade). We heard it on doors everywhere that (some) people were leaving us due to abortion. It wasn't just younger women, although it appears single women favored Democrats by 37% nationally. Any time one of our door-to-door canvassers went to a high-income home, a really nice home, where the voters had always said they were Republican, the canvasser would brace because, at that door, we're very likely to hear, “I'm not voting Republican anymore, they are too extreme on abortion.” I believe that was the great equalizer that made this a fair fight. So many other issues were breaking Republicans way, but the combination of that, and then Democrats were very good about using a term, “We're fighting cost of living”, at the end. That was the term that was sticking for them to kind of lessen the blow of how bad inflation was to at least sound like they were talking about it. So, no, it seemed like a fair fight to me once we got past Dobbs, pretty even, and I really just never understood where the overconfidence was coming from on Republicans' part.
Craig Otto 02:59
I want to tie that back into the first comment about the money and how Evers had so much of a money advantage. Obviously, big picture, besides being in that campaign, that's kind of what you're trying to do is trying to get money out of politics and not be as big a factor in races overall, right?
John Pudner 03:18
Yeah, that was… I may be giving up on that part of the reform fight a little bit. I just don’t think it’s as open. I'm estimating this was about $90 million to $45 million (advantage for Evers and all his allies). I believe Citizens United a little over a decade ago gave Republicans an edge in being able to raise big money, and, that's just not the case anymore. There's a lot more liberal billionaires willing to spend freely on these races. So yeah, I do wish there was less, and I wish people were subjected to fewer TV commercials, but, we need to fight what we can. Republicans are always gonna be at a big disadvantage in the money department, at least for the foreseeable future.