How Much Did Election Denial Hurt Republicans in the Midterms?
Denying the results of the 2020 election and casting doubts about the nation’s voting system cost statewide Republican candidates 2.3 to 3.7 percentage points in the midterms last year, according to a new study from States United Action, a nonpartisan group that promotes fair elections.
Why It Matters: Consequential races were close.
Even at the lowest end of the spectrum, 2.3 percentage points would have been enough to swing several critical midterm races that Republicans lost, including the contests for governor and attorney general in Arizona and the Senate elections in Nevada and Georgia.
In each of those races, the Republican nominee had either expressed doubts about the 2020 election or outright rejected its legitimacy.
And as former President Donald J. Trump illustrated at a town-hall event last week, election denialism is very much alive within the Republican Party.
But spreading such conspiracy theories again could hamper Republicans as they look to take back the Senate in 2024.
“The problem for a lot of Republicans right now is that the gap between what the base wants and what swing voters will tolerate has gotten very long,” said Sarah Longwell, an anti-Trump Republican strategist.
Background: A series of losses for election deniers
In the midterms, a slate of election-denying candidates ran together as the America First coalition. These candidates, organized in part by Jim Marchant, the Republican nominee for secretary of state in Nevada, sought to take over critical parts of the nation’s election infrastructure by running for secretary of state, attorney general and governor in states across the country.
But in every major battleground state, these candidates lost.
“What we found was lying about elections isn’t just bad for our democracy, it’s bad politics,” said Joanna Lydgate, the chief executive of States United Action.
The group arrived at the 2.3 to 3.7 percentage-point “penalty” number by comparing election-denying candidates in 2022 with Republicans who did not espouse similar views, and then comparing the 2022 performance to that of 2018.
On the whole, 2022 was a better year for Republicans than 2018 was. As expected, in statewide races with no election denier, Republicans did much better in 2022 than in 2018 on average, but the same did not hold true for election-denying candidates.
What’s Next: Big Senate races in 2024
Several candidates who were a core part of the election denial movement have signaled an intent to run again in 2024, including Mr. Marchant in Nevada. Others, including Kari Lake and Doug Mastriano, who lost races for governor in Arizona and Pennsylvania, are reportedly considering bids for Senate.
And as Mr. Trump continues to demand fealty to such beliefs and hold sway over Republican primaries, the issue is likely to linger in G.O.P. politics.
Most battleground states are not holding contests for governor and secretary of state until 2026, but several marquee Senate races next year will determine control of the chamber.
“What’s really interesting is that the results there are different from the results for congressional races and state legislative races,” Ms. Lydgate said. “We think that’s because in these statewide races for governor, state attorney general, secretary of state, voters really came to understand that those are the people who oversee voting. Those are the people who are in charge of your freedom to vote.”
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