(AP) – It’s just three little words, but they’ve become almost impossible for many Republicans to say: “Joe Biden won.
Eleven months after the Democratic inauguration, lawmakers and Republican candidates across the country squirm and stumble rather than acknowledge the fact of Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. In debates and interviews, they propose circular statements or vague responses when asked if they think Biden won.
Yes or no?
In Minnesota this week, five GOP gubernatorial candidates came up with 1,400 more words when conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked for a response.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, GOP Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas only conceded, “Joe Biden was sworn in. “
The vague statements are a measure of electoral denial within the Republican Party. Former President Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen election have spread so widely among GOP voters that many party candidates believe them or fear the political repercussions of Trump’s rebuttal. This sets up a surreal dynamic for next year’s election, where the most difficult question posed to GOP candidates – especially in the primaries – can be a one-word answer they are reluctant to give.
Biden received more than 81 million votes compared to Trump’s 74 million, according to the Federal Election Commission tally. The tightest margin was in Arizona, where Biden won by 10,457 votes. Most importantly, he won 306 votes in the Electoral College, more than the 270 needed to become president. Trump got 232.
Even a GOP-led “audit” of votes in Arizona’s largest county got Biden to win. Dozens of state and federal courts, as well as the Trump administration’s Justice Department, have dismissed claims of widespread electoral fraud.
When the Associated Press set out to count all allegations of fraud in the states challenged by Trump, it found fewer than 475 potential cases – 15 hundredths of 1% of Biden’s winning margin in those states.
And yet, many Republican candidates may be considering another figure: A July Associated Press-NORC poll found that 66% of Republicans said Biden was not legitimately elected president. More than two-thirds of Americans overall said Biden was legitimately elected.
The doubt was fueled by Trump, who argued without evidence that the election was “rigged” and urged his supporters to reject the result. He decided to oust his Republican colleagues who voted to certify the results.
Marshall of Kansas was among five senators who voted against certification of electoral votes for Arizona and Pennsylvania in January, the day a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a violent effort to prevent the last step that sealed Biden’s victory.
While Marshall suspends his response to the process, other Republicans are going further. Arizona Republican Representative Andy Biggs, who was part of a group of GOP congressmen who pushed false statements, recently responded to a colleague’s question about who won by saying categorically: ” We do not know”.
“That’s the problem,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, responded at a House Oversight Committee hearing. “Donald Trump refused to accept the results, and unfortunately we have one of the biggest political parties in the world following him off the edge of this electoral madness, and it is dangerous for democracy.”
There are Republicans who clearly recognize, without squirming, Biden’s victory. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is one of them, along with Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who was the 2012 GOP presidential candidate, and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, for example. Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel said the words last month.
“Sadly Joe Biden won the election, and it’s very painful to watch. It’s the president. We know that, ”McDaniel told reporters in Washington at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.
But it is clear that not all Republicans know this. In October, Second House Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana repeatedly refrained from disavowing Trump’s fraud claims, claiming without evidence that “a number” of states “did not follow through. »Their electoral laws.
Josh Mandel, a GOP candidate for the Ohio Senate, on Friday called for more investigations into the voting in battlefield states. “I think Trump won,” he said in an interview with the Hewitt radio show.
“This is an important question and needs to be phrased, I think, as I did. I would expect it to be asked and answered (or not) often to many applicants over the course of the year. coming up, ”Hewitt tweeted after the debate in Minnesota.
The responses demonstrate the pressure on Republican primary candidates to appeal to, or at least not offend, the Trump wing of the party, according to strategists.
“In today’s grim Republican Party, the question of electoral legitimacy has become a litmus test of whether you are truly loyal to the Republican Trumpist tribe or not,” said Mike Murphy, a seasoned Republican strategist and critic. of Trump.
It took a while – that is, winning the Republican nomination for governor of Virginia – for Glenn Youngkin to get there. In May, he said in an interview: “I mean, the reality is, and I’ve said it before, Joe Biden was rightfully elected our president.”
But in February, although he did not say Biden had “stolen” the election, he was also hesitant to declare that Biden had been “legitimately elected,” according to non-partisan political watchdog group Politifact.
Other candidates have gone the other way, far from the facts. In Ohio, where Republicans are vying for the nomination for a vacant Senate seat, candidate Bernie Moreno began running an ad this week in which he reportedly said, “President Trump says election was stolen, And he’s right.
Yet, just days after last year’s election, Moreno urged Tories on Twitter to “accept the results of the 140 million plus votes cast,” and tweeted a congratulatory note to Biden for a “tough victory. disputed “.
On Wednesday, the unrest for Republicans played out in full view of the debate scene in suburban Minneapolis.
One by one, five Minnesota Republicans running for governor debated Hewitt’s question, “Did President Biden win a constitutional majority in the Electoral College?” “
State Senator Michelle Benson spoke 240 words as she recruited Republican watchers from the polls and lambasted the Democratic Secretary of State for Minnesota before Hewitt again bluntly asked, “Did President Biden win?”
His response: “He was certified by Congress as having won the Electoral College.