Opinion: GOP wins depend on quality of candidates, campaigns

Georgia’s State Capitol in Atlanta. (AJC file photo)

Credit: AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo

Georgia’s State Capitol in Atlanta. (AJC file photo)

Whether it’s baseball or politics, an inferior opponent can never be underestimated. As someone who has worn hats in both arenas, I’ve learned this lesson firsthand. It’s one I hope my fellow Republicans are paying attention to, both in my home state of Georgia and beyond, as election season draws near.

Both topics are especially timely right now. On the baseball side, we are, unfortunately, in the midst of the 9th work stoppage in Major League Baseball history after owners and players failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement.

Before public service, I was an aspiring professional baseball player. During the last work stoppage in 1995, I was a 19-year-old sophomore at Georgia Tech and was chosen to be the starting pitcher in a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves. With the professionals not in spring training, the Braves’ starting lineup consisted of a roster full of replacement players, most either past their prime or not talented enough to make the roster in a normal year.

Chalk it up to youthful arrogance, but I remember thinking this was my chance to shine. These replacement players were no match for my fastball – or so I thought. I threw my first pitch right down the middle of the plate expecting a strike call, only to watch the hitter smash it off the wall in deep centerfield. So much for that.

Following the opening of the 2020 Georgia General Assembly, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan held a press conference to discuss his priorities for the 2020 legislative session and take questions on January 13, 2020 in Atlanta. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

For the GOP, there are obvious parallels. President Joe Biden and his Democratic Party are adrift. Even before the arrival of the omicron variant, the President broke so many of his campaign promises, starting with reining in the COVID pandemic. It may have been unachievable for anyone, but Biden repeatedly pledged to do so. His administration has precious few answers to mounting concerns about the state of the economy. Instead of tackling the issues, he and his team are focused on convincing the American people that things really aren’t that bad. The sniping and palace intrigue about Biden’s potential successor chews up countless news cycles.

Yet challenges remain for Republicans. In next year’s midterms, the GOP is the heavy favorite to regain the House majority based on history and political gravity. On the Senate side, there are real questions swirling about the quality of our recruiting class and it’s still unclear whether we will find candidates capable of knocking out well-funded Democratic incumbents who have played right along with Biden’s failed economic agenda.

Even today, Georgia remains the center of the political universe. We are less than a year away from marquee races for governor and U.S. Senate, and both are blockbusters in the making. Freshman Senator Raphael Warnock has voted for 100 percent of the Biden agenda. That alone is a disqualifier in a right-of-center state like ours. But the field of challengers is led by Herschel Walker, the former Georgia star running back, who has yet to articulate a political vision or make the case to voters why he is best-suited to be their senator. Questions remain about his political playbook.

In the gubernatorial battle, former Senator David Perdue, whose January loss in a runoff election paved the way for a Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate, is rumored to be considering a primary challenge to our sitting governor, Brian Kemp. [Editor’s note: This column was written before Perdue’s announcement Monday.] As with Walker, Perdue has not outlined a clear rationale or reason to run. Speculation runs rampant that he would jump in with the support of former President Donald Trump and pick up his mantle of unfounded conspiracy theories involving voter fraud.

Which brings us back to the topic where we started: candidate and campaign quality. Based on the quality of their opponents, Donald Trump should still be in the White House, and David Perdue should still be in the Senate today. They ran against inferior challengers and lost – not because of fraud, not because of voting machines, but because of their own lackluster campaigns full of self-inflicted wounds.

Conservative ideas and policies work better. We know that. The Left’s “government knows best” mantra is failing by the minute. We are all unfortunately living through the consequences of the Biden presidency. But the quality of candidates and campaigns also matter. Before we get the right to govern, we need to convince voters to give Republicans a chance. Otherwise, the under-skilled replacement players can get the better of us, and we’ll lose another winnable contest.

Geoff Duncan is Georgia’s lieutenant governor.