WASHINGTON — As Republicans gear up for the 2024 Presidential Race, there is a large rearview mirror image that refuses to disappear: The 2020 presidential Election.
The Colorado GOP elected a 2020 election denier as its leader for the next two-years. This was about a week ago. This was weeks after the Michigan Republicans also selected a 2020 denier as their party leader.
A party that loses a presidential election usually sort through the mess and decides how to move forward. However, the GOP has not made this transition since the aftermath of 2020. Two Stanford University academics have published a new paper that shows the consequences of this behavior. Two Stanford University academics argue that refusing to move forward has two significant effects on the party. The first is that Republicans are more likely to nominate electoral deniers in primaries. Two, election-denier candidates are more likely to face additional difficulties in general elections if they get their nominations.
This paper compared the 2022 primary results and general election results for state Republican candidates who were or were not election deniers. It found some concrete effects.
According to the paper, Republicans who were election denier received an average bump of 2 points in the primaries when compared to non-election-denying Republicans. This meant that they were more likely than others to win the nomination. However, when it came to the general election, the performance of election-denying Republicans was 2.3 points worse than those who said correctly that President Joe Biden won in 2020.
These dynamics could be seen in 2022 in gubernatorial elections that were open to Republicans in four of the most important swing states in the country: Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
These states were won by President Biden in 2020. However, Republicans elected an election negender for the Republican nomination as governor. Each state lost in November.
Depending on which race you are, the 2.3 points election deniers were underperforming by in 2022 could have been a significant difference.
It doesn’t appear that the Republican candidates’ election denial position in Michigan or Pennsylvania was the decisive factor, as the margins for defeat were so wide. There, Democrats Gretchen Whitmer, Josh Shapiro and Tudor Dixon, Republican challengers, won the elections by double digits.
However, in Arizona and Wisconsin that 2.3 point could have been critical. In Arizona, Katie Hobbs defeated Republican Kari Lake by less that one point. In Wisconsin, Tony Evers, the Democratic incumbent, defeated Tim Michels by just a little over 3 points. Michels might have won if a few of these voters had voted Republican.
Campaigns are complex and often involve more than one issue. Candidates are important. Each state’s political landscape is important. Donations and funding are important. There are many reasons candidates lose races, such as in Michigan or Pennsylvania.
However, most races are not close races, especially in battleground states. Take a look at the 2020 presidential race, and the margins of victory in those states that decided the election: Arizona (Georgia), Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina.
The margin of victory in 2020’s presidential race was very narrow — less than 3 points in all these states. It was so narrow that flipping just 2.3 percent of votes (the net effect of nominating an electoral-denier, according to the analysis), from one candidate in any of those states would have altered the outcome in those states and the national electoral tally.
The paper’s effects were assessed in a midterm period. However, the impact could differ if the top candidate on the ticket is part of the false narrative for 2020. If former President Donald Trump wins the 2024 nomination, this could be true. However, the results of 2022 could be seen as a warning sign for the GOP.
The data suggests that the Republican Party is trapped in its own box. While candidates might choose false election denier stories in order to get primary voters excited, if they win the nomination these stories could be detrimental to the general voting public in general elections.
This is a common lesson in political circles. Elections are about the future. It doesn’t seem like a good way to increase support, especially if you are focusing too much on the past.