Dozens of Republican candidates have sown doubts about the election as they seek to join the ranks of the 147 Republicans in Congress who voted against certifying President Biden’s victory. There are degrees of denial: Some bluntly declare they must repair a rigged system that produced a flawed result, while others speak in the language of “election integrity,” promoting Republican re-examinations of the vote counts in Arizona and Georgia and backing new voting restrictions introduced by Republicans in battleground states.
They are united by a near-universal reluctance to state outright that Mr. Biden is the legitimately elected leader of the country.
“I would not have voted to certify Jan. 6, not without more questions,” said Sam Peters, a Nevada Republican who is campaigning for a Las Vegas-area House seat. He said he was not sure that Mr. Biden had legitimately won Nevada, even though the president did so by more than 33,000 votes.
It’s unclear how long the reluctance to accept unfavorable electoral outcomes will remain a central focus of the party, and to what degree Republicans might support widespread election challenges up and down the ballot in the future.
But Republicans’ unwavering fealty to the voter fraud myth underscores an emerging dynamic of party politics: To build a campaign in the modern G.O.P., most candidates must embrace — or at least not openly deny — conspiracy theories and election lies, and they must commit to a mission of imposing greater voting restrictions and making it easier to challenge or even overturn an election’s results. The prevalence of such candidates in the nascent stages of the party primaries highlights how Mr. Trump’s willingness to embrace far-flung falsehoods has elevated fringe ideas to the mainstream of his party.
Over a year before the midterm elections, many of the fledgling primary races remain in flux, with scores of potential candidates still weighing bids. The Census Bureau’s delays in producing detailed population data have pushed the redistricting process back until at least September, which has impeded the recruitment of candidates for both parties.
The result is that Republicans who have jumped into campaigns early tend to be those most loyal to Mr. Trump and the party base. Several among this new class of Republicans are likely to win their races, helped by historical trends favoring the party out of the White House, and a head start on fund-raising and meeting potential voters.