GOP primary campaigns turning fraud skeptics into Trump-loving election conspiracists: analysis
Trump appears during a rally Oct. 10, 2016, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (Matt Smith Photographer / Shutterstock.com)

Republican candidates are trying to have it both ways with Donald Trump's election lies out on the campaign trial.

Former senator David Perdue made clear during this week's debate that Trump's lies about a "rigged and stolen" election would be a key component to his GOP primary challenge to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, but before his latest run for office he vaguely spoke about "irregularities" that may have caused the former president to lose, reported the Washington Post.

"Perdue’s dance is a familiar one," wrote Post columnist Aaron Blake. "Repeatedly, high-profile statewide GOP candidates have run ads claiming a stolen election. Often, they made no such claim back when it might have mattered. And often, they’ll avoid saying it was stolen for the reasons Trump himself cites."

Ohio Senate candidate Bernie Moreno also claimed Trump was "right" about fraud claims after forcefully denying on Nov. 7, 2020, that widespread fraud was a factor, and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey claimed in a new ad that Trump had the election stolen from him after remaining silent on the issue until she faced a primary challenger who makes the same claims.

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Dean Heller, a former GOP senator who's now running for Nevada governor, also remained mum on the issue until he called Joe Biden an illegitimate president during his latest run for office.

"It’s an extension of what happened after 2020," Blake wrote. "Republicans knew that what Trump was saying was ridiculous and that they couldn’t defend it. So they instead talked about 'irregularities' and states expanding mail-in balloting during the pandemic — things that nobody could pitch with a straight face as a 'stolen election' — and ignored the substance of Trump’s argument (such as it existed)."

But their about-face on the campaign trail shows how much Trump still controls the party and its voters.

"The need to toe Trump’s line to have any real future in the party — combined with the passage of time, allowing for both memories of Jan. 6 and the need for rhetorical consistency to fade — has forced some truly astounding political contortions and fungible morals," Blake wrote.