Republican reaction to President Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud ranged widely Friday, from vigorous agreement to sharp condemnations, and in between some carefully constructed statements supporting the idea of fair elections without any endorsement of the president’s fabricated assertions of an election conspiracy.
“Here’s how this must work in our great country: Every legal vote should be counted,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, wrote on Twitter Friday morning. “Any illegally-submitted ballots must not. All sides must get to observe the process. And the courts are here to apply the laws & resolve disputes.”
“That’s how Americans’ votes decide the result,” he added.
Notably absent from Mr. McConnell’s statement was any suggestion that Democrats were stealing the election through an elaborate national conspiracy that included pollsters and the news media, as Mr. Trump asserted with no evidence in a rambling news conference on Thursday. It also implicitly rejected Mr. Trump’s fruitless calls for a halt to vote counting in states where his early leads have been threatened or eliminated.
In a stinging statement, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said that Mr. Trump, while free to request recounts and present valid evidence of fraud, “is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen — doing so weakens the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundations of the republic, and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions.”
As Mr. Trump and his die-hard allies maintained that the vote in Pennsylvania — where his early lead over former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., evaporated on Friday — was badly corrupted, that state’s Republican senator, Patrick J. Toomey, condemned Mr. Trump’s claims.
“The president’s speech last night was very disturbing to me because he made very, very serious allegations without any evidence to support it,” Mr. Toomey told “CBS This Morning.”
“I am not aware of any significant fraud, any significant wrongdoing,” he added.
Some Republicans seem prepared to defend Mr. Trump’s position without reservation, however.
“President Trump won this election,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California told the Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Thursday night. “So everyone who’s listening: Do not be quiet. Do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes.”
Claiming that poll watchers have not been able to watch vote counts, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted a link to Mr. Trump’s legal defense fund, with the headline, in all capital letters, “The Democrats Will Try to Steal This Election.”