Election Deniers Ending Diluting the GOP’s House Majority

(Bloomberg) — Democrats have adopted a risky strategy in a handful of House races, targeting their opponents to support Donald Trump’s false claims of 2020 voter fraud instead of poll-tested issues like abortion rights or the economy. And in two-thirds of the cases, it worked, narrowing the GOP majority for the remainder of President Joe Biden’s term.

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In the final weeks of the midterm cycle, Democratic campaigns and outside groups attacked nine candidates with ads showing footage of the Jan. 6 uprising at the U.S. Capitol and attacking them for somehow supporting Donald Trump’s baseless claims about the 2020 election.

Six of those candidates lost, limiting the margin of the new Republican majority to 218 to 210 Democrats, with half a dozen races still unresolved.

The low-profile strategy contributed to larger efforts to criticize the election deniers running for governor and secretary of state. Biden raised the defense of democracy as an issue in a speech just days before Election Day.

At the time, Democratic strategists criticized the speech as ineffective when voters were citing inflation and the economy as the top issue.

But the attacks seem to have worked. Overall, candidates who expressed doubt about the 2020 presidential results from New York to Arizona were defeated in Senate, House and state races, even as anti-Trump Republicans won.

Among the losing House candidates targeted were Reps. Yvette Herrell in New Mexico and Mayra Flores in Texas, as well as challengers April Becker in Nevada, Bo Hines in North Carolina, Allan Fung in Rhode Island and Yesli Vega in Virginia. All were in races rated “toss-up” by the Cook Political Report.

A similar advertising campaign helped Democrats retain control of the Senate. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto ran multiple ads in the final weeks of the campaign targeting Republican candidate Adam Laxalt for his efforts to try to overturn Trump’s loss in Nevada, helping her to a narrow victory in the state that gave her 50th. seat for the Democrats, gain control. .

Sarah Longwell, a Republican political consultant who ran denier anti-election ads through the Republican Accountability Project, said they were effective because swing voters were turned off by extreme candidates.

In focus groups over the past year, Longwell said swing voters cited issues like inflation, crime or the coronavirus pandemic as top concerns, but when asked why they didn’t like specific Republican candidates, they often cited abortion rights and assault. January 6 among them. reasons.

Similar ads also ran in districts that leaned toward Republicans or Democrats, including several ads against Derrick Van Orden, a Wisconsin House candidate who was outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, but won his seat anyway.

Along with the loss of the general election candidates rejecting elections in the critical 2024 states of Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and the secretary of state candidates in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Minnesota and New Mexico, the fumbled House races added emphasis on concerns among Republicans about Donald Trump’s draw on the party as he launches his third presidential run on Tuesday.

The nine Republican candidates who were targeted faced ads that showed footage of the attack on the Capitol on January 6 along with comments in which the candidates said they were “persecuting rioters”, which they claimed were “rigged and the 2020 election was stolen” or that conspiracy theories were spread.

Many drew on tropes more typical of Republican campaigns that go after their opponents as being soft on crime.

In one ad, from Virginia Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, Republican Police Chief Chris Jenkins of Culpeper criticized Vega for “corrupting” and “disgraceful” the FBI in a fundraising email and saying in a candidate forum that the riots on 6 January being occupied. “persecution” and “shame.”

“That’s wrong,” he said.

Other ads said that Hines “sides with rioters over the police” and Flores “even blamed the police for the attack on the Capitol that left five police officers dead.”

The ads were just a smear of the overall spending by pro-Democrat groups, which mainly tackled issues such as abortion, especially when the candidate was in favor of banning without exception rape, mutilation or mother’s life. Spending was also a big increase compared to the $46 million spent on attacking election dissidents running for secretary of state, and often managing voting and ballot counting.

Longwell said election denial was not an isolated problem. The types of candidates who used it to win Trump’s endorsement or get through a Republican primary also tended to hold other views that swing voters found problematic, she said.

“There was a high level of overlap between people who denied the 2020 election and also said a lot of other crazy things,” she said.

Hines, for example, drew widespread criticism when he said rape and female genital mutilation victims should only get abortions if a “community-level review process allows it,” and Vega drew national attention for suggesting that it is more difficult for women to become pregnant from rape. . The ads often combined these positions on abortion with election denials saying the candidates were too “big.”

The ads did not necessarily target the most ardent election deniers. Fung, the former mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, ran as a New England moderate, but the ads labeled him an extremist for not criticizing Trump. Herrell was attacked for voting with other Republicans against a move to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments for calling for the execution of top Democrats.

Three Republican candidates targeted by the ads won anyway: George Santos and Brandon Williams and in New York and Jen Kiggans in Virginia.

Santos, who was at a Trump rally on the Ellipse before the Capitol attack, was caught on camera saying he “cut a nice check” to a law firm to get out of prison. Williams repeatedly refused to blame Trump for the January 6 attack until the November 3 debate. Kiggans raised doubts about election systems, supported an audit of the Virginia election and refused to say whether Biden won fairly.

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