The Limits of ‘Stop the Steal’

This week’s conventional wisdom suggests that Senator Doug Mastriano of the state won the Pennsylvania Republican primaries by provoking voters with claims of a 2020 election. stolen. Let’s see how that analysis plays out if and when Georgia Governor Brian Kemp knocks out his main challenger next week.

It is also Mr Kemp, whom Donald Trump has called “the worst ‘Electoral’ Governor-General in the country.” In 2020, Mr Kemp turned down calls to overturn his state’s election results, and Mr Trump has since been absent. He enlisted former Senator David Perdue to challenge Mr Kemp last year, and later gave him “complete and total endorsement”. Mr. Perdue, who lost a race in January 2021 to Democrat Jon Ossoff, launched an immediate “stop stealing” campaign, speaking at a March rally by Mr. Trump: “Let me be very clear. Very clear. In the state of Georgia, thanks to Brian Kemp, our elections were completely stolen. He sold us out.”

How does it work? The RealClearPolitics average has Mr Kemp beating Mr Perdue by 25 points. The most recent poll, from Fox News, the governor rose 32 years old. Thanks to Mr. Trump’s obsession and Mr. Perdue’s uncanny focus, Georgia has become one of the purest test cases for the durability of 2020 election grievances, if the polls are accurate. , the message from the Republican Party of Peach State was: Move on.

They were able to do that because Mr Kemp has cleared the 2020 mess and is focused on the future. The governor rejected any attempt to deprive Mr. Biden of his electoral vote, but he understands voters’ anger and alarms about irregularities in the 2020 election. Within two months of Mr. Biden. Inaugurated, Mr. Kemp signed an electoral reform bill with new regulations on voter IDs and ballot boxes. Mr. Kemp has allowed a wave of outrage (and misrepresentation) from the media, Democrats and sober companies to make the case for his supporters that it is such a good reform. any.

It also freed him up to stand out and build on a solidly conservative profile. Mr Kemp was one of the first governors to relax Covid restrictions. He is overseeing a booming economy, with a flurry of investments and new jobs. He prioritized bringing broadband to rural areas and signed legislation to expand school choice, protect girls’ sports and strengthen parental rights. Last month, he signed a new law allowing Georgians to carry guns without a permit. Republican voters know a good bet when they see it.

The same strategy worked this week in Idaho, where Governor Brad Little beat Trump-approved Lieutenant Colonel Janice McGeachin by 20 points. Ms. McGeachin criticized the governor for his handling of Covid-19 and ran to support a 50-state audit of the 2020 election results. Mr. Little contested on his record, in which There are new laws restricting private money in administering elections, a thriving economy, substantial tax cuts and the promise of attracting huge state budget surpluses for more tax breaks.

That’s right, it’s rare for incumbents to lose primaries. But incumbency is no guarantee — ask Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, whom voters rejected this week, or for that matter, former Democratic Chairman Joe Crowley, 10th congressman. tenure of power lost to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018. If 2020 Election Rage remains as strong as some claim, Mr. Kemp will at least be in a tighter race.

A lesson for candidates is to be careful not to think of the topic of “stolen elections” as a way to connect with voters. Karl Rove noted that it is unclear whether Mr Mastriano won because of his campaign statements or despite them. That particular preliminary was a group of eight in which all the candidates struggled to get a message across, creating a highly fractured vote. Overall, Pennsylvania voters appear to have drawn this cycle to politicians with a conservative political approach, choosing not only Mr Mastriano to the right but progressive leader John Fetterman as well. on the left.

The primaries also demonstrate that Trump’s endorsement has some limits, which could cause candidates to rethink their desperate efforts to win them over. The former president has been savvy with some of his endorsements, linking up with already high profile candidates (including Mehmet Oz and Herschel Walker for the Senate in Pennsylvania and Georgia, respectively) or giving endorsements his approval at key moments (as he did at the last minute for Mr. Mastriano, who took the lead). Mr. Perdue has been racing for Trump’s endorsement for months, and has had no problem.

For the most part, recent results suggest that while GOP voters remain concerned about irregularities in the 2020 election, they are primarily focused on the fix and the future. Glenn Youngkin cracked that code last year during the Virginia director’s election, when the sentiment was even more rudimentary. He acknowledged Biden as the legitimate president and promised to strengthen the integrity of the election. Mr. Youngkin has run on a forward-looking agenda to tackle schools, the economy and crime – and has won in a Democratic-leaning state in recent years. That tried-and-true formula remains the road to midterm GOP success.

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Editorial Review: Paul Gigot interviews Kim Strassel, editor of the Wall Street Journal. Image: AP / Getty Images Synthesis: Mark Kelly

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