Dozens of Republican officials continue to tell lies about the 2020 election, claiming that Donald Trump lost only because of fraud. These claims are especially worrisome for the future of American democracy because they suggest that those same officials might be willing to overturn a future election result and hand power to the rightful loser.
On the other hand, dozens of other Republicans have never claimed that Trump lost because of fraud. This list includes most Republican senators (like Mitch McConnell, the party’s Senate leader), several governors (like Mike DeWine of Ohio) and other state-level officials.
In the latter group of Republicans, however, a split is emerging. Some have decided that lies about the 2020 election are a red line they will not cross, and they have refused to endorse other Republicans making the claims. Others are actively campaigning for election deniers — and, in the process, enabling the spread of the false claims.
In today’s newsletter, we will break down the three groups of Republicans: the deniers, the enablers and the accepters.
We’ll also give you the latest results from last night’s primary elections in Florida, New York and Oklahoma.
Republicans who falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent now make up more than half of the party’s major elected officials in some states. In the House of Representatives, almost two-thirds of current Republican members objected to the 2020 result in at least one state. So did eight senators and attorneys general in 17 states.
This faction of Republicans seems to be growing, too. Overall, Republican voters have nominated more than 100 candidates for Congress or statewide office who echo Trump’s false claims of fraud. The Washington Post has compiled a list, and it includes top officials in several swing states — like Michigan and Pennsylvania — that could determine the 2024 presidential election.
Last night’s voting: In Oklahoma, Republicans nominated Markwayne Mullin, a Trump-endorsed congressman who has claimed that the 2020 election was stolen, in a Senate primary runoff.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is a telling case study. Many political analysts believe that DeSantis is likely to run for president in 2024. As he prepares for a potential campaign, DeSantis is trying to distinguish himself from Trump while also appealing to Trump’s supporters.
One way he seems to be doing so is his approach to the false claims about the 2020 election. He has studiously avoided making them himself. (As Politico puts it: “When asked by reporters whether the last presidential election was rigged, DeSantis has instead highlighted changes to election laws he has supported or simply changed the topic.”) At the same time, DeSantis is embracing other Republicans who do echo Trump’s lies.
He traveled to Arizona to campaign for Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for governor, and Blake Masters, the Senate nominee. In Pittsburgh last week, DeSantis gave a 40-minute speech at an event for Doug Mastriano, the Pennsylvania governor nominee. DeSantis has also held a rally with J.D. Vance, the Ohio Senate candidate who has claimed that 2020 featured “people voting illegally on a large-scale basis.”
Among the other Republican enablers:
Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona — despite saying that Lake was “misleading voters” about election fraud — is supporting her in the general election. “It’s important for Arizona Republicans to unite behind our slate of candidates,” he tweeted.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia is scheduled to campaign this week with Tudor Dixon, the Republican nominee for Michigan governor, who has made false election claims.
McConnell has endorsed Herschel Walker, the Trump-backed Georgia Senate candidate who has also repeatedly made false election claims. And a group affiliated with McConnell recently announced it would spend tens of millions of dollars on TV and radio ads to boost Vance.
The number of Republicans who have treated false election claims as a defining issue is much smaller, but it’s not zero:
Larry Hogan, Maryland’s Republican governor (who cannot run again, because of term limits), is refusing to endorse and is harshly criticizing his party’s nominee for governor this year, Dan Cox. Cox has called the 2020 election fraudulent and chartered buses for the Trump rally that preceded the Jan. 6 riot.
John Bridgeland, a Republican former staffer to Rob Portman and George W. Bush, endorsed Tim Ryan, the Ohio Democrat running for Senate, over Vance. “If Vance is willing to undermine his own integrity and character for public office, imagine what he might do if he were a U.S. senator,” Bridgeland wrote in The Cincinnati Enquirer.
In the Colorado Senate race, Joe O’Dea won the Republican nomination over a rival who attended Trump’s Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally. O’Dea criticized his opponent for focusing on the past.
Most prominently, Representative Liz Cheney, who lost in a primary last week to Harriet Hageman, called on voters to oust election-denying Republicans. “Let us resolve that we will stand together — Republicans, Democrats and independents — against those who would destroy our republic,” Cheney said in her concession speech.
The bottom line: It remains unclear whether the Republicans denying the 2020 election result — or the Republicans enabling those deniers — would ultimately be willing to overturn a future election. But their words and behavior certainly suggest that they might participate in such an effort or at least tolerate it.
In Florida, Democrats chose Representative Charlie Crist — the former Republican governor — to challenge DeSantis.
Democrats outperformed polls in two House special elections in upstate New York, winning one and losing the other by single digits.
In New York City, Jerry Nadler defeated Carolyn Maloney in a battle between powerful, long-serving House Democrats after a redrawn map combined their districts.
In New York’s suburbs, Sean Patrick Maloney, chair of the Democratic House campaign committee, beat Alessandra Biaggi, a progressive state senator endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
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