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How badly election deniers cost the GOP, in 9 stats

Republican election denier candidates lost key statewide races in the 2022 midterm elections, even as denier ranks swelled in Congress. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)
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Back in May, we wrote a piece running down the biggest races in which a GOP election denier, if elected, could exercise significant control over the 2024 election.

It named nine candidates for governor and other statewide offices. As of today, it looks like each and every one of them has lost.

Tracking which 2020 election deniers are winning, losing in the midterms

The latest additions are two secretary of state candidates in Arizona and Nevada. And vote counts released Sunday night in the Arizona governor’s race suggest the only one of the nine who hasn’t lost so far, Kari Lake, is unlikely to break the trend.

The 2022 election was a big disappointment for Republicans: They failed to win the Senate, and it looks like they will have only the barest of House majorities. But it was an utter disaster for the most prominent election deniers among them.

Election denial is difficult to quantify, and many deniers won in safe Republican areas and could continue to be a force in American politics. But by virtually every metric, such candidates — and especially the most extreme ones — appear to have cost Republicans dearly in 2022.

The question is how much the party continues to indulge election denialism in light of what just happened.

Let’s run through some of the stats:

  • The Washington Post’s tracker lists 46 competitive races featuring an election denier. The deniers have lost 31 of those races and won just seven, with eight races outstanding.
  • Only two of those seven wins came in an electorate that voted for President Biden in 2020, and neither came in a district that was bluer than the country as a whole. That reinforces that the election-denier creed was a stone-cold loser in swing areas.
  • The only election deniers to win governor’s races so far were incumbents. Election deniers appear to have lost all 12 races in which they were either challengers or running for an open seat, including in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and potentially Arizona. If you include primaries in Georgia, Idaho and Nebraska, non-incumbent election deniers look like they will have gone 0 for 15. (Some have listed Nevada Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo as an election denier, but he was relatively noncommittal compared with others.)
  • The most prominent election deniers running for secretary of state were nearly swept on Tuesday, and they lost in every swing state. They lost in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota and Nevada (after also losing in Georgia in the primaries).
  • The picture wasn’t much better for election deniers outside swing states. The America First Secretary of State Coalition, the most prominent group supporting election deniers to oversee state elections, lists 17 endorsements on its website. If Lake loses (the group also endorsed a couple of gubernatorial candidates), then 16 will have lost in the 2022 election cycle.
  • Perhaps the most prominent election deniers in competitive Senate races were Arizona’s Blake Masters (who released an ad saying Donald Trump won the 2020 election), Nevada’s Adam Laxalt (who spearheaded Trump’s 2020 election challenges in his state) and New Hampshire’s Don Bolduc (who said the election was stolen before reversing course after the primary). Each not only lost, but also underperformed the other Republicans on the ticket. Republicans won the governor’s races in both Nevada and New Hampshire, for example. And in Arizona, Masters’s current 6.3-point deficit is six points worse than Trump’s performance in 2020 and worse than every other statewide Republican.
  • Both Arizona and Michigan featured hard-line election deniers running for nearly every statewide office. Those candidates could all go down, with the GOP trailing in 7 of 8 races. (The only GOP winner thus far: Arizona state Treasurer Kimberly Yee, who won reelection by double digits and is the only statewide Republican candidate not endorsed by Trump.)
  • The only two gubernatorial seats to go from red to blue so far came by virtue of hard-line election deniers: Geoff Diehl in Massachusetts and Dan Cox in Maryland. (Lake could soon be No. 3.) The fact that Republicans would lose these states isn’t altogether surprising. But in the primaries, these candidates effectively pushed aside a popular governor (in Massachusetts, Diehl’s candidacy made the race much less viable for Charlie Baker) and a popular governor’s preferred successor (defeating Kelly Schulz in Maryland, whom Larry Hogan endorsed). That handed these seats to Democrats on a platter.
  • Some of the biggest underperformances in the House also came thanks to Trump-backed election deniers. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) leads narrowly in a district Trump carried by more than eight points in 2020. John Gibbs lost by 13 points in a Michigan district Trump lost by eight. Joe Kent lost by two points in a Washington district Trump carried by four. And perhaps the biggest loser, Ohio’s J.R. Majewski, trailed by 14 in a district Trump carried by three — a gap of 17 points. (These numbers may change slightly.)

Majewski had other problems, including apparently inflating his military record. And it’s worth considering that many of these candidates might have lost for other reasons; perhaps election denial was more of a symptom of being too keen to appeal to the extreme than an actual cause of their loss. But the two certainly go hand in hand, as the results rather unequivocally show.

Given all of the above, it’s worth talking about the exceptions: The races that election deniers did win.

Perhaps the biggest winners so far were Senate candidates J.D. Vance in Ohio and Ted Budd in North Carolina. But neither made election denial a centerpiece of their campaigns down the stretch. And Vance surely benefited from running in a red state. His current six-point margin also not only lags Trump’s eight-point win in the state two years ago, but it badly lags every other statewide Republican. The GOP is currently winning the governor, attorney general and secretary of state races by at least 20 points.

That story played out throughout the country. Some election deniers won, but the hard-liners almost always ran behind their fellow Republicans and lost in places where the electorate was the most competitive. Had GOP Senate nominees merely been able to match the results of more standard-issue Republicans in governor’s races in Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire, the Senate would be Republican.

There is evidence that the stolen-election fever has broken somewhat, with many of these election deniers conceding their defeats. And judging by the results Tuesday, Republicans had better make sure that trend continues.

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect the GOP victory in the Arizona treasurer’s race. It initially said, incorrectly, that Republicans were trailing in every statewide race in Arizona and Michigan.