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Path to Victory or: How I Learned to Play the Game and Embrace Early Voting: WTVN (Columbus, OH) Fox News Interview

While on his recent radio tour across our Republic analyzing the current state of the race and the impact early voting has made not only to influence elections, but how it influences the approach of GOTV efforts, President John Pudner traveled to Columbus, Ohio, the heart of a state once considered the bellwether for the tides of national politics. 

The Buckeye State was also once the center of presidential election controversy, as in 2004, the state became the second in US history to have the certification of it’s electoral votes successfully challenged in Congress, in this case, due to alleged disqualification of provisional ballots, misallocation of voting machines, and an extreme wait for results. In response, then-Secretary of State Ken Blackwell spent his second term focused on enacting a host of election reforms, including the enactment of a substantial early voting period.

Since then, Ohio has been hailed nationwide as a model example for how to conduct election operations, but all of this is to say that this should sound familiar to those who voted in 2020. 

Conservatives nationwide have had to deal with the same realities Ohioans did in 2004 - while reforms and safeguards have been enacted, the game rules have changed, and in order to win, those participating must adapt and play by those rules. The path to do this is also clear, with Ohio conservatives owing much of their success to an increased focus on early voting turnout, as seen with the 7.3% increase in early voting between the 2022 and 2024 primaries. It’s also been seen to work in Florida, another state once considered a bellwether, but now firmly in the red thanks to, for example, a 300,000 vote lead heading into Election Day 2022.

As Pudner and host Mike Elliott discuss, the clearest and most viable way forward for campaigns, state parties, and non-profits is to, in the famed words of author Rudolf Raspe, "pull themselves up by their bootstraps", restore confidence in early voting amongst conservative circles, and refocus and double early voting GOTV efforts in order to not only win, but better the future for hard-working families across our Republic.

For more in-depth analysis by President John Pudner on this topic, please click here. To learn more about TBOR Action's efforts on topics including election integrity, please click here.

The following transcript from this interview is presented in its entirety with minor edits:


early vote, conservatives, election, liberals, Pennsylvania, mail, ballot


Mike Elliott and TBOR Action President John Pudner


Mike Elliott  00:00

John Pudner joining us, president of Take Back Our Republic Action, also a Bush 2000 aide. John, people are talking about election day being November 5th, when in reality, election day starts months before that, talking about mailing and early voting.


John Pudner  00:21

These have been the only two ways Democrats have been beating Republicans in recent years - the early vote and on college campuses where there's same-day registration. Other than that, Republicans have actually had really good margins the last couple of elections, so Republicans just need to close the gap, and just not going way behind on election day like they've done the last couple of years.


Mike Elliott  00:42

So what is it about Democrats figuring out how to use early voting? The first election date is September 16th in Pennsylvania, that's when people can start voting there. Are Republicans more traditional, that they want to go vote on election day, versus an early or a mail-in vote?


John Pudner  01:04

Yes, that's it, and it's too bad. In Pennsylvania, it was Republican early voting years ago, and it kind of went away, and in the midterms, Democrats went into Election Day 576,000 votes ahead in Pennsylvania. If Republicans had cut that in half, they would have won, same thing in Georgia with a 200,000 vote margin, Herschel Walker would have won election day without a runoff if they cut that in half. So, there's been a real aversion, and I was on national radio in 2000 after President Trump expressed concerns about things such as Nevada mailing out ballots, and it was just being misinterpreted out there that you shouldn't vote early, even though I always have if I'm elderly, or got called out of town on work, or whatever, and so it just kind of suppressed the vote and just created the huge margins for Democrats before election day.


Mike Elliott  01:56


Well, the issue I have, John, is people going in, and we'll take the Pennsylvania example, going in on September 16th and voting, and several things can happen, but your vote is already cast. If you've cast your vote for somebody, and then some big October surprise, some big revelation happens, it's too late, you can't change your vote at that point.


John Pudner  02:17

Absolutely. I don't like the rule, so I want to distinguish that. I think we should try to change these rules and really tighten these windows. The part I'm saying is, right now, that the rule, so we have to play by him. It's not like saying I think a football game should be shorter so I'm not blaming the first half, you know? I just get calls saying it sounds great at the polls, but we're starting half a million votes behind, so it has to really look good. It's just getting through this one. Georgia tightened the window a lot. They went from this same kind of schedule Pennsylvania has down to a couple of weeks, which is very reasonable, I think if you're talking a week or two, as you said, most of the things have happened by then, but yeah, we're stalking Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, and other places where this is going to be an issue we have to overcome.


Mike Elliott  03:15

And it also changes how campaigns manage their messaging to with campaign advertising. Instead of going heavy in late October leading up to the November election, they're really having to do all of their messaging, and their ad buys, earlier and earlier. Now it's if you're not on the air, and getting your message across in August and September, you're kind of missing the boat.


John Pudner  03:40

And there's a whole added turnout option too. You need to see who is signing up to vote early, and mail them then, so it's very complicated now. We did this ahead of a primary in Wisconsin in 2022 and I think the former Lieutenant Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, said they actually won Election Day, but we just won by 20 in early voting because we embraced it, even though a lot of Republicans wouldn't, and we just made sure the voter who signed up to get an early ballot was getting a piece of mail from us before they got the ballot even. So, it is really complicated, but the other reason it gives Democrats a big advantage is it costs several dollars per door knock once you figure everything. When Democrats vote a month early, they stop having to knock on their door, so it's just millions of dollars more spent by Republicans to keep trying to turn people out right till Election Day. It's a huge disadvantage, and Democrats already have a huge money edge, so this just adds to the problem.


Mike Elliott  03:46

And we haven't really talked about the fact that early voting really opens the window for fraud.


John Pudner  04:42

I think all these things are legit. Wisconsin and other states have done a good job having to display an ID, Utah has a good system for signature matching. There are ways to do it if you want to stop the fraud that are similar to Voter ID on Election Day, but then you had Nevada in 2020, which mailed live ballots to everyone on their list. I mean, you could have 13 people in the home because you didn't keep track of people who moved. That's where you have the real fraud. There are ways to be tight on mail-in and early voting, but if you don't want to, if that's not your goal, you certainly open the door for fraud in Nevada, who certainly did.


Mike Elliott  05:23

John, what do Republicans have to do to even the playing field other than go out and vote early as well? Is there a solution there or do they just have to kind of play the game as it's been played?


John Pudner  05:35

I think that's it and seems that Republicans are more open to going in-person and voting early. It's more been an aversion to mailing in a ballot. That's fine and you don't get a situation like Arizona where the lines are so backed up that Republicans are leaving and going home because they've waiting in line for a long time. But there are examples, I mean, in Florida, Republicans go into Election Day 300,000 votes ahead and that's why it's not a swing state anymore, so particularly with elderly pockets, or again, people just travel a lot for work and get called out of town. If you make the plan to vote, you usually do, but if you tunnel it off, it slips away, so I just encourage people to think in-person, but maybe a few days early, even if they're averse to putting a ballot in the mail.


Mike Elliott  06:23

John is only person in US history to run a campaign defeating a majority leader in a primary. Tell us that story in about a minute.


John Pudner  06:33

Yeah, that was 2014. We took on Eric Cantor, who was the Majority Leader, was about to become Speaker when Boehner was going to give the gavel to him, and beat him with an upstart college professor, doesn't sound conservative, but he really was conservative economist Dave Brat, and it was a great upset, everyone got their five minutes of fame, so that was mine.


Mike Elliott  06:52

I appreciate your time this morning. It's John Pudner, president of Take Back Our Republic Action. John, have a great week. We'll talk again soon


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