WASHINGTON — Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said Thursday that Republican candidates should continue talking about voter fraud and the 2020 election heading into the midterms, even while acknowledging that President Joe Biden won last November.
“I mean, we have to talk about the things that people saw,” McDaniel said during a reporters’ roundtable hosted by the Christian Monitor. She highlighted concerns from poll watchers and voters who she said were “frustrated” because they were turned away from polling sites or who felt that the presidential election “wasn’t run well.”
“We have to talk about this because we've got to fix it,” McDaniel added.
Republicans across the country have pushed for sprawling audits and filed dozens of lawsuits around the 2020 election results after former president Donald Trump spread unfounded claims about widespread voter fraud. More than a year after the country elected a new president, some Republican voters are still motivated by suggestions of fraud and have launched “election integrity” efforts across the country, including massive poll watcher recruitment efforts. Trump himself has called reviewing the 2020 election “the single most important thing for Republicans to do" and suggested Republicans won’t vote next year without it.
McDaniel, though, did not go as far as Trump, who has consistently lied about who actually won the presidential election.
“Painfully, Joe Biden won the election,” she said Thursday.
McDaniel declined to respond to former New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s recent comments that Republicans should move beyond the 2020 election and Donald Trump. The party’s focus, she said in this case, should be around criticizing Biden’s economic and immigration policy at a time when Democrats hold both chambers of Congress and the presidency.
“Everybody has a right to do what they want,” she said about Christie specifically. “But if you're going to be putting in the headlines, Republican versus Republican, we're taking away the opportunity to talk about what Democrats are doing to this country.”
“I think every Republican right now should be talking about 2022,” she said. And that's where I am as the Republican Party chair. I'm not talking about anything else, other than what Biden is doing to destroy our country — high gas prices, an open border, the opioid crisis.”
But McDaniel is in a tricky position: With Trump holding so much sway over her party — and endorsing her own reelection to lead the RNC at the start of 2021 — breaking with him in any significant way would be extremely risky.
“If he left the party, we would lose,” McDaniel said of Trump. “If he left the party, Republicans would lose. He has built our party. He has added a new base.”