DONALD TRUMP’S presidency was a disaster for Virginia Republicans.

During his tenure, Democrats flipped three GOP-held congressional seats, in 2018, and, in 2019, won both houses of the General Assembly in Richmond, giving them complete control of state government for the first time in a generation. Mr. Trump himself lost Virginia last year by 10 percentage points, the biggest margin for any presidential candidate in the state since 1988.

Rather than nudging the party away from Trumpism, however, most of this year’s Virginia Republican gubernatorial hopefuls are doubling down on the lie that President Biden stole the election — a turnoff for educated suburban voters who have turned the state solid blue.

As the candidates jockey ahead of an unusually venomous nominating convention next month, they are united on the supposedly urgent need to overhaul voting rules. The rationale, that Virginia’s electoral integrity is at risk, is an extension of the lie.

State Sen. Amanda F. Chase, who urged Mr. Trump to declare martial law to retain power and lionized the Capitol-sacking rioters of Jan. 6 as patriots, currently leads the field, polls suggest.

A rival, businessman Pete Snyder, has issued a 23-point voting integrity plan that includes a trifecta of proposals to address the non-problem of voting by noncitizens. Another candidate, former hedge fund executive Glenn Youngkin, trumpets his blueprint for an election integrity task force — the very thing that Mr. Trump himself established, at the federal level, before it evaporated, a victim of its own fever dreams of widespread election fraud.

Then there is state Del. Kirk Cox, former speaker of the House of Delegates and the lone major GOP gubernatorial candidate who acknowledges that Mr. Biden won the election fair and square. Yet Mr. Cox, a rock-ribbed conservative, also suggests that Virginia “go further” than Georgia’s recently enacted anti-voting law, which seeks to impede the kind of large turnout that Republicans nationally regard as an existential threat. Specifically, he lauds Georgia for doing “a really good job of really limiting how many drop boxes you can have.”

That, in a nutshell, is the problem: Election drop boxes are simply a convenience to make voting easier. There is no evidence that they have enabled significant election fraud. Yet for today’s GOP, which has shrunk its tent to true-believer dimensions, easier voting itself is a peril, because voters themselves are the problem.

Rather than compete for a bigger pool of voters, Republicans in Virginia, as elsewhere, are intent on downsizing the pool in the hope of excluding minorities and other Democratic-leaning constituencies. They are hellbent on sustaining that assault on democracy in the hope of saving their own skin, because they cannot reimagine for themselves a future platform that would attract a more diverse electorate.

That’s a losing game, but it’s the only game the GOP seems willing to play.

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