Meanwhile, Trump’s staunchest allies promised to fight on, adopting the president’s baseless claims that voter fraud corrupted the results. Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, made this the official position of the party, calling any results premature and saying that the election wasn’t over until “any investigations of irregularities or fraud play out.”
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien urged supporters on a call Saturday to be ready to attend protests or rallies that the campaign is “propping up around the country,” according to audio obtained by The Washington Post.
“Just be at the ready at a moment’s notice. We may need your help and support on the ground, waving the flag and yelling the president’s name in support,” Stepien said.
He encouraged donors to give to the legal defense fund for the president and to distribute a campaign hotline for potential fraud causes so they would have evidence in various states.
Although most prominent elected Republicans remained silent, a handful accepted the outcome of the election and offered words of encouragement.
McDaniel’s uncle, Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris, tweeting that he and his wife, Ann, “know both of them as people of good will and admirable character. We pray that God may bless them in the days and years ahead.”
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), a moderate who has criticized Trump, also pledged to work with the Democratic White House.
“We have to find a way to come together, bridge divisions, and focus on solutions that help the millions who are struggling,” he wrote. “I am raising my hand and committing to working with President-elect Biden and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress to do exactly that.”
Former presidential candidate Jeb Bush also congratulated Biden.
“I will be praying for you and your success. Now is the time to heal deep wounds. Many are counting on you to lead the way,” the onetime Florida governor said.
Retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) did not rule out that there were voting irregularities — although there is no evidence of any widespread problems — but said, “After counting every valid vote and allowing courts to resolve disputes, it is important to respect and promptly accept the result.”
Several Republicans, rather than directly react to the news, fired off tweets about the dual Senate runoff elections in Georgia that will determine the balance of power.
“A Democratic majority in the Senate would cinch the radical agenda of the left,” tweeted Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.). “They must be stopped on January 5 in Georgia.”
As of midafternoon Saturday, McConnell had not sent GOP senators any message recommending what they should say about the presidential race, leaving it up to each of the 53 Republicans to say what they want, according to two senior GOP aides for senators who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
An adviser close to McConnell said the leader planned to say little publicly until he saw how serious some of the court challenges were, what evidence the campaign had and how it was proceeding. “A little patience,” the individual said, adding that McConnell would be clear if Trump had lost.
Trump allies expect to get more support from McCarthy and the House than McConnell and the Senate, two Trump advisers said. The three individuals spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly.
Several of the hard-right members of the House pledged to fight on, amplified Trump’s unfounded claims of a rigged election and chastised those Republicans who had acknowledged Biden’s win.
“Some Republicans are ready to throw in the towel now and fight for a future election,” tweeted Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of the first to react to the news. “There is no future for the Republican Party if we do not stand and fight for @realDonaldTrump in this critical moment.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) echoed a common refrain among Republicans blaming media outlets for declaring Biden the winner.
“The media do not get to determine who the president is. The people do. When all lawful votes have been counted, recounts finished, and allegations of fraud addressed, we will know who the winner is,” he said.
Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), whose state’s 20 electoral votes gave Biden the win, also focused on the calls issued by multiple news organizations, including Trump’s preferred Fox News.
“Today’s announcement by the media of the election’s outcome is a projection. A final outcome will be reached when the election process concludes, which is after all legal votes have been counted, litigation is resolved, and any recounts are completed,” Toomey said.
But Democrats, already in full celebration mode, had a different view.
“It’s over,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) tweeted. “A new day in America.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Biden about 12:45 p.m. to congratulate him, according to a senior congressional aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly.
Schumer focused on the runoff races in Georgia, saying the Democrats must win those seats to help Biden “get things done to help the American people.”
Pelosi said the election “marks the dawning of a new day of hope for America,” She later tweeted, “We kept the republic!”
Paul Kane contributed to this report.