The Big Lie: A Big Problem
Numerous candidates around the country ran in 2022 enthusiastically pushing Donald Trump’s line that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Many of those candidates, including gubernatorial aspirants Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Kari Lake in Arizona, went on to lose, as did the majority of secretary-of-state candidates in swing states.
A new study from Stanford shows that this wasn’t a coincidence.
According to a Stanford Graduate School of Business study released last month, going by its title, “Election-Denying Republican Candidates Underperformed in the 2022 Midterms.”
“We find that the average vote share of election-denying Republicans in statewide races was approximately 2.3 percentage points lower than their co-partisans after accounting for state-level partisanship,” the Stanford study found.
“Election-denying candidates received roughly 2 percentage-points more vote share than other Republican candidates in primaries, on average, although this estimate is quite uncertain. The general-election penalty is larger than the margin of victory in battleground states in recent close presidential elections, suggesting that nominating election-denying candidates in 2024 could be a damaging electoral strategy for Republicans.”
It’s not clear how many of the candidates sincerely believed in the “Big Lie” theory. Denying the 2020 election results, for one thing, was a great way for candidates to get Trump to endorse them in contested primaries. However, it’s beginning to look like election denial and the attendant pro-insurrection politics are absolute poison to the general electorate.
“The general-election penalty is larger than the margin of victory in battleground states in recent close presidential elections, suggesting that nominating election-denying candidates in 2024 could be a damaging electoral strategy for Republicans,” The Stanford report added.
Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Z. Barabak wrote about the study. He noted that the Republicans should have done a lot better in 2022, considering the fundamentals, but the attachment to the Big Lie acted as a big drag on them.
“Much was said and written following the midterm elections, in a collective exhalation of relief, after the highest-profile election deniers were defeated in several key states. And the outcome was important and beneficial,” Barabak wrote. “The Stanford study, though, takes a bit of gloss off the uplifting narrative — voters rise up, save democracy! — suggested by that (mostly) happy ending.”
Of course, the big parts of the GOP show no signs of giving up on the Big Lie. The Guardian reported that the sentiment was repeatedly expressed at CPAC earlier this month.
Kari Lake, for instance, headlined the event’s Ronald Reagan dinner, while “Trump Won” merchandise was sold at the venue.
“They stole that election,” Lake said of her gubernatorial race in 2022, which she continues to contest without success. “The crime was committed in broad daylight on November 8. They sabotaged election day.”
Steve Bannon and Kimberly Guilfoyle also talked about the “stolen election” from the stage at CPAC. And, per the Guardian, when MyPillow founder and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell was asked about the notion that election denial is a losing issue, he replied “If you give it up, you lose your country.”
Also at CPAC, there was more generalized talk of “election integrity,” including one panel called “They Stole it From Us Legally.”
And Donald Trump continues, on a regular basis, to state outright at the 2020 election was stolen from him.
“The Democrats are using their Prosecutors to try and steal another Presidential Election,” the former president posted to Truth Social on March 6. “The only candidate they don’t want to run against is ‘TRUMP,’ me, despite their DISINFORMATION campaign to the contrary. I beat them twice, did MUCH BETTER the second time, and they don’t want to do it again — Will be a lot tougher for them to Cheat and Rigg the Election, and that’s why they are using their City, State, and Federal Prosecutors. Republicans in Congress are watching closely. DOJ SHOULD STOP!”
Expertise and Experience:
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.