Nov 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Inside Republicans' troubled Election Day operations

Illustration of a person holding an open briefcase with papers falling out

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As President Trump unsuccessfully argues fraudulent voter claims, campaign operatives tell Axios the reality is the joint EDO (Election Day operations) by the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee left them feeling largely unprepared to challenge ballots in real time.

Why it matters: With several states moving toward certifying election results this week, the postmortems are beginning as political operatives try to understand what worked, what didn't and how to adjust going forward.

What we're hearing: Officials in different regions of the country describe a state-by-state patchwork — and a sense that the GOP's litigate-everything posture wasn't matched by operations robust or agile enough to mobilize properly.

  • "They claimed they had a great EDO on the ground, and that was the furthest thing from the truth," said one Trump election adviser who was in Pennsylvania the week of the election. "You have to stop fraud as it happens, not after the fact."
  • An official in the Gulf states said they repeatedly asked the campaign for more resources and were denied.
  • "The campaign fell apart after Election Day," another adviser said. "You can’t audit this in reverse. ... The infrastructure just failed."
  • In contrast, two officials in Florida told me their team had a good plan in place to combat concerns in real time and a strong EDO helped them win there.

The other side: Trump deputy campaign manager and lawyer Justin Clark tells Axios this was "the largest, most organized Election Day operation ever mounted by any campaign in the history of the Republican Party" with more than 50,000 trained volunteers nationwide.

  • "We were prepared, and anyone who says otherwise either wasn't there or is trying to make themselves seem smart by anonymously running to the press."

Be smart: Republican elections lawyer Ben Ginsberg tells Axios' Stef Kight even if the Trump campaign had better EDOs, there's no reason to assume that would have yielded any discoveries to invalidate Biden's margins.

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