WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s wild and unsupported claims of voter fraud have emerged as a high-stakes Republican loyalty test that illustrates the tug of war likely to define the future of the GOP whether he wins or loses the presidency.
There is a pervasive sense among current and former GOP officials that the president’s behavior is irresponsible if not dangerous, but a divide has emerged between those influential Republicans willing to call him out publicly and those who aren’t.
Driving their calculus is an open acknowledgement that Trump’s better-than-expected showing on Election Day ensures that he will remain the Republican Party’s most powerful voice for years to come even if he loses.
That stark reality did little to silence the likes of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a second-term Republican who has not ruled out a 2024 White House bid. He described the president’s claims as “dangerous” and “embarrassing.”
“If there are legitimate challenges, we have a process, that’s the way it works,” Hogan told The Associated Press. “But to just make accusations of the election being stolen and widespread fraud without providing any evidence, I thought was really bad for our democratic process and it was something I had never seen in my lifetime.”
“Other Republicans did speak up,” he noted, “but certainly not enough of them.”
Indeed, the most aggressive Republican criticism was limited to the small and familiar group of frequent Trump critics such as Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who will not face Republican voters again for at least four years.
But a handful of more regular Trump defenders raised the embattled president’s ire by failing to rush to his defense.
Some Trump allies viewed former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley’s initial response as a political obituary of sorts for the president. She thanked Trump on Twitter for helping to deliver “conservative victories” up and down the ballot and predicted that “truth will prevail.”