GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate are taking a page out of Donald Trump's playbook before Election Day has even arrived.
Before and after the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump lied about the integrity of the process, baselessly claiming widespread voter fraud was the only reason for President Joe Biden's victory. Now several Republican Senate nominees are using the same playbook to cast doubt on the 2022 midterms.
Biden defeated Trump 306-232 in the Electoral College — a margin Trump himself described as a "landslide" when it was in his favor — and received over 7 million more popular votes. But rather than concede, Trump proclaimed on Nov. 4, 2020: "This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election."
Though multiple national examinations found zero evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities, Trump continues to spread false conspiracy claims that voter fraud cost him reelection. Across the country, Republican lawmakers and candidates have echoed the same false claims.
On Oct. 28, CNN reported that the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the U.S. Capitol Police had jointly warned state and local officials, "Following the 2022 midterm election, perceptions of election-related fraud and dissatisfaction with electoral outcomes likely will result in heightened threats of violence against a broad range of targets―such as ideological opponents and election workers."
But with the 2022 elections ending on Nov. 8, several GOP Senate candidates are laying the groundwork to claim cheating should they lose their races.
Don Bolduc in New Hampshire
Republican Don Bolduc is challenging New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. In an Oct. 10 appearance on the right-wing radio talk show "The Kuhner Report," first spotted by the progressive research group American Bridge 21st Century, he claimed: "There is no doubt that we have voter fraud, voter irregularities, and particularly here in New Hampshire, that we have machines that we can't trust. We have a mail-in balloting system that we can't trust."
In the same interview, Bolduc warned of "a late night or some sort of dump with ballots or some sort of dump with votes that come from machines, and the next thing you know, you wake up in the morning and the election has changed."
Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin
Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is breaking his promise not to run for more than two terms in the Senate and seeking reelection against Democratic nominee and current Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. In an Oct. 5 appearance on the Vicki McKenna talk radio show, also flagged by American Bridge 21st Century, Johnson claimed, "The FBI not only corrupted the 2020 election, they're corrupting the 2022 election."
A spokesperson declined to commit to the Wisconsin State Journal that Johnson would abide by the results, saying, "It is certainly his hope that he can."
Adam Laxalt in Nevada
Former Nevada Attorney General and Trump 2020 state campaign co-chair Adam Laxalt is challenging Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. In August 2021, he reportedly told right-wing radio host Wayne Allyn Root that his lawsuits to overturn Trump's 2020 defeat had come too late. "With me at the top of the ticket, we're going to be able to get everybody at the table and come up with a full plan, do our best to try to secure this election, get as many observers as we can, and file lawsuits early, if there are lawsuits we can file to try to tighten up the election," Laxalt promised.
In May, the Las Vegas Review-Journal asked if he still planned to file a preemptive legal challenge to Nevada's election rules for 2022. Laxalt responded that he was "certainly looking into opportunities to improve the integrity of our ballot and stop voter fraud. This includes legal action if needed."
Blake Masters in Arizona
Blake Masters is challenging Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. According to an Oct. 15 report by the Daily Beast, he told a voter that because Arizona was still using the same voting machines that were used in 2020, he might need to win by a substantial margin to circumvent cheating. Recounting that his father warned him that Democrats would "just find 40,000" Kelly votes, Masters said, "All I know is, if those are the numbers, I've got to win by 80,000."
"There's always cheating, probably, in every election," he reportedly told supporters in July. "The question is, what's the cheating capacity?"
Asked by the New York Times in September whether Masters would respect the results, a spokesperson declined to answer.
Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania
Mehmet Oz is running against Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for the open Senate seat of retiring Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey.
In an American Bridge 21st Century-flagged Sept. 25 Zoom conversation with young Republican activists, Oz said that he already had a team of lawyers ready for Election Day and vowed to fight in the courts if Democrats "start changing the laws on us because they're behind and they want to get extra votes."
The American Independent Foundation reached out to each campaign to ask whether they would accept the results, win or lose.
None immediately answered the question; Masters spokesperson Katie Miller did mock the reporter for listing his pronouns in his email signature line, writing, "Oh you subscribe to the fake woke gender ideology? No thanks."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.