Joe Biden is closing in on a victory. But he’s staring at a deeply divided nation — and an opponent who’s refusing to accept the results. POLITICO’s Natasha Korecki breaks down how Biden is preparing for a rocky transition.
The sounds of GOP silence
Trump’s latest airing of grievances at the White House on Thursday failed to shake loose a body of prominent Republicans willing to call him out for his attacks on the integrity of the election or baseless claims of victory. And that silence is beginning to serve as the functional equivalent of encouragement to fight on.
Yes, there were some critical statements, including sharp ones from Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, former Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Reps. Will Hurd of Texas, Denver Riggleman of Virginia and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
“STOP Spreading debunked misinformation,” Kinzinger wrote on Twitter. “This is getting insane.“
But the criticism is coming from the most distant reaches of the balcony. Hogan hails from one of the bluest of states. Hurd and Riggleman are leaving Congress at the end of their terms. Kinzinger is a lone voice in the House wilderness on the topic.
Former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Trump ally, rebuked the president‘s claims of fraud, but delivered only a light slap on the wrist.
Trump was within his rights to say what he wanted from the White House lectern, Christie said on ABC News Thursday night, but “we heard nothing today about any evidence.“
“This kind of thing, all it does is inflame without informing,” Christie said. “And we cannot permit inflammation without information.”
Party leadership is silent, and aside from Hogan, there’s a reason there isn’t a likely 2024 Republican primary contender in the bunch. Even as Trump‘s hopes of a second term fade, the GOP right still belongs to him, and the big shots aren’t searching for distance.
Take Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity” to prop up the president.
“We may well see the state legislatures get involved,” Cruz said. “We’ve seen the state courts, we may see the federal courts, we may ultimately see the U.S. Supreme Court.”
He’s preaching to the Republican Party base. This might be different if Biden had swept Trump out in a landslide. But as it stands, nearly 70 million people have cast ballots for Trump, and they aren’t going anywhere regardless of how this election ends.
Trump knows this equation well, and his son Donald Trump Jr. was public about it — framing fidelity for Trump’s cause as a litmus test for 2024.
With few exceptions, he wrote on Twitter, “The total lack of action from virtually all of the ‘2024 GOP hopefuls’ is pretty amazing. They have a perfect platform to show that they’re willing & able to fight but they will cower to the media mob instead. Don’t worry @realDonaldTrump will fight & they can watch as usual!”
The right-wing echo chamber amplifying Trump
There are senators like Cruz and Tom Cotton of Arkansas who are proving to be steadfast allies, and then there are the true dead-enders who are amplifying the president’s claims.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina put a foot in both camps by announcing on “Hannity” that he is going to donate $500,000 to Trump’s legal fund (“I’m here tonight to stand with President Trump,” Graham said. “He stood with me. He’s the reason we’re going to have a Senate majority.”)
Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs wondered aloud in an interview with the Trump campaign’s Ric Grenell, “Why isn’t the Republican Party en masse demanding the Department of Justice move in here?”
But that rhetoric paled compared to Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, who called for officials to “lock up” elections workers in big cities whom he said are part of an effort “to steal the presidency of the United States.”
“I am sick and tired of corrupt left-wing Democrats who believe that we are too timid and too easy to intimidate,” Gingrich said.
And then there’s Sean Hannity himself, who on Twitter teased his show with an air of possibility: “IT’S NOT OVER: There’s one thing we know about this election is that it is far from over.”
That’s all fuel for Trump’s fire. And as long as they’re keeping the faith, there’s cause for Trump to as well.