Republicans believe they have a good shot at taking Congress next year. But there’s a catch.
The G.O.P.’s ambitions of ending unified Democratic control in Washington in 2022 are colliding with a considerable force that has the ability to sway tens of millions of votes: former President Donald J. Trump’s increasingly vocal demands that members of his party remain in a permanent state of obedience, endorsing his false claims of a stolen election or risking his wrath.
In a series of public appearances and statements over the last week, Mr. Trump has signaled not only that he plans to work against Republicans he deems disloyal, but also that his meritless claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the White House in 2020 will be his litmus test, going so far as to threaten that his voters will sit out future elections.
“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020,” Mr. Trump said in a statement last week, “Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24. It’s the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”
The former president’s fixation on disproved conspiracy theories is frustrating to many in his party who see it as needlessly divisive at a time when Republicans feel they are poised to take back the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. They worry he could cost Republicans otherwise winnable seats in Congress and complicate the party’s more immediate goal of winning the governor’s race in Virginia next month….
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has supported exhaustive audits of the 2020 results to look for evidence of voting irregularities that repeated reviews have failed to produce. Still, she has told colleagues that she was surprised by a recent survey of Republican voters in her district, according to one person who spoke with her about it.
The internal survey found that 5 percent of Republican voters said they would sit out the 2022 election if the state of Georgia did not conduct a forensic audit of the 2020 election — a demand that some of Mr. Trump’s hard-core supporters have made. Another 4 percent said they would consider sitting out the election absent an audit.
The possibility that nearly 10 percent of Republicans could sit out any election — even one in a solidly red district like the one held by Ms. Taylor Greene — was something Republican strategists said they found alarming.
Since Mr. Trump left office, polls have repeatedly shown that large majorities of Republican voters want him to run in 2024. And roughly 40 percent of Republicans say they consider themselves to be primarily his supporters rather than supporters of the party — about the same share who said so last November, according to the political research firm Echelon Insights.
Many Republicans don’t seem to want to hear anything critical about him. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center, for instance, highlighted the lack of an appetite for much dissent. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans, Pew found, said their party should not be accepting of elected officials who criticize Mr. Trump.