The poor performance of Republican candidates in the US midterm elections has prompted a new round of finger-pointing within the GOP, as more moderate members accused Donald Trump and his fellow election deniers of imperilling the party’s fortunes.
On Sunday control of the US House of Representatives was still up for grabs with Republicans expected to maintain the slimmest of majorities in the chamber but with many races undecided.
However results showed that swing state voters overwhelmingly rejected those candidates seeking state office who denied the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory — a blow to Donald Trump, who had championed them and is expected to announce his 2024 presidential bid next week.
On Sunday Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, accused Trump of costing his party control of Congress.
“This should have been a huge red [Republican] wave . . . More than 70 per cent of people thought the country was going in the wrong direction. And yet we still didn’t perform,” Hogan, a Trump critic, told CNN’s State of the Union.
“People who tried to relitigate the 2020 election and focused on conspiracy theories and talked about things the voters didn’t care about, they were almost universally rejected. And I think it’s basically the third election in a row that Donald Trump has cost us the race,” Hogan said.
Chris Sununu, the Republican governor of New Hampshire, echoed Hogan’s concern.
“There is a sense of extremism that a lot of Republicans were painted with — rightfully or not,” Sununu told ABC. “This was a rejection of that extremism.”
Out of eight candidates running for secretary of state who denied the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, only two won their races: Chuck Gray in Wyoming, who ran unopposed, and Diego Morales in Idaho, who backtracked on some of his election denial stances ahead of the vote.
All but one member of the America First secretary of state coalition — a QAnon conspiracy theory-linked group of Republican candidates who have denied the outcome of the 2020 election — lost to their Democrat opponents.
Election deniers are still hoping to secure the governor’s mansion in Arizona, where Trump ally Kari Lake is locked in a close contest with Democrat Katie Hobbs. However, two other Trump allies — US Senate candidate Blake Masters and January 6 riot-attendee, Mark Finchem, the Republican secretary of state candidate and a co-founder of the America First group, were defeated.
On Saturday Trump attempted to cast doubt on the veracity of the vote in Arizona and Nevada, alleging without evidence on Truth Social, his social network platform, that Democrats were “finding all sorts of votes” in the two states. The former president demanded that a new election be held in Arizona “immediately”.
Finchem has refused to concede his race, while Lake has also not committed to conceding should she lose hers. Ahead of the vote, Lake had said the only way she would lose the vote was if it was “rigged”.
Not all Republicans are rejecting Trump outright or blaming him for Republicans’ worse than expected performance.
However, even some of Trump’s one-time allies have taken subtle digs at the ex-president, a sign that some Republican rivals may try to take on Trump in the primary, should he decide to run as expected.
On Sunday, Republican Senator Tom Cotton, a Trump ally who is viewed as a potential GOP presidential contender, said the party did not have one “single leader” when asked if Trump should be considered its head.
Cotton said that while the midterm vote was not “a complete disappointment”, Republicans needed to do a better job sticking to the policy matters that voters care about.
“We need to focus on serious substantive accomplishments and issues,” Cotton said.