NEW YORK (AP) — A draft of a report examining the Republican Party’s struggles in last year’s midterm elections says the results show that voters aren’t interested in “relitigating previous elections” and that failing to heed those warnings could harm the GOP in 2024 and beyond.
The draft notably does not mention former President Donald Trump by name, but alludes to the controversial, far-right candidates he endorsed who went on to lose. That includes many who echoed the former president’s lies about a stolen 2020 election.
“We cannot afford to ignore the obvious lessons of the 2022 election cycle,” the report’s introduction reads. “The Republican candidates in 2022 who delivered results and had a vision for the future did much, much better than those stuck in the past and rehashing old grievances.”
The draft also says that Republicans “underestimated the impact” of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in the months before the midterms, a landmark ruling that both parties have acknowledged played a role in Democrats’ surprisingly strong performance in the elections.
The Republican National Committee is poised to review the draft report as members gather later this week privately in Oklahoma City. While the initial draft does not reference Trump directly, one of the report’s authors, RNC Committeeman Henry Barbour, of Mississippi, said Thursday that the draft is not final and could change.
The Associated Press obtained only the introduction section of the report, but Republicans familiar with the draft said Trump was not mentioned in the rest of the document. Those Republicans spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the preliminary document.
An RNC spokesperson did not immediately reply to messages seeking comment Thursday.
The omission of the former president’s name is a sign of his enduring dominance in the Republican Party and shows how even high-ranking GOP officials remain loath to cross him. Trump, who is seeking the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, is considered the party front-runner and maintains a strong base of support among GOP voters.
Republicans, who had expected a GOP wave amid high inflation, reclaimed the House majority by a much smaller margin than party leaders anticipated. The party also failed to win back the Senate majority, losing notably in battleground states of Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania, where Trump-backed nominees had echoed his false claims of 2020 election fraud.
Although not yet finalized, the report is a far cry from the audit conducted after the 2012 elections, when President Barack Obama won a second term in office by defeating Republican Mitt Romney. That report said the party needed to adopt a more inclusive and welcoming tone, embrace a more forgiving position on immigration and conduct more vigorous outreach to Black and Hispanic voters.
The authors of the post-2022 report did not shrink from urging the party to “fight against the failed policies” of President Joe Biden and Democrats, but added, “we should do it with civility.” Biden formally announced he was seeking reelection this week.
“The American people are ready to move on, but no GOP candidate will benefit if we question the patriotism of our political rivals,” it states. “Our political opponents also love America.”
While warning against a focus on the past, the draft report from the 2022 midterms also described “election integrity” as a continuing “critical issue.” The term has emerged as coded phrasing for Republicans after Trump baselessly blamed mass voter fraud for his defeat to Biden in the 2020 election — despite a broad coalition of top government and industry officials calling it “the most secure in American history.”
Citing “election integrity” concerns, Republicans across the country have pushed laws to make it harder for citizens to vote.
The report also touched on voting by mail, an issue that Trump has railed against by claiming, without evidence, that it is ripe for fraud and that mail ballots may be “manipulated.” Due in part to Trump’s criticism, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to cast mail ballots.
“Republican campaigns cannot disregard mail-in voting or other legal means of voting or turning out voters,” the introduction states.
“Campaigns do that at their own political peril,” it continues. “Republican campaigns must push our supporters to vote early in person or by mail. Republicans cannot continue to give Democrats a head start.”
Bill Palatucci, an RNC committeeman from New Jersey who has been a vocal Trump critic, said a review of the 2022 midterms that doesn’t mention the former president is pointless.
“It’s not worth the effort if you’re not going to honestly review the facts of what happened,” Palatucci said. “If it doesn’t mention Trump or the election deniers by name, it doesn’t matter. It would be a waste of time to read it because it’s not an honest evaluation of what really went wrong.”
Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa.