Republicans worried conspiracy ranting at CPAC will come back to 'hurt them': report

According to a report from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the constant drumbeat of speakers complaining about the 2020 presidential election results at the CPAC conference in Orlando has some Republicans and GOP campaign consultants cringing that it may remain center stage during the November midterms.

With one speaker, Ohio's Josh Mandel -- who is seeking the GOP nomination for his state's open U.S. Senate seat -- telling the crowd, "We have Democrats who think it’s OK to cheat in elections, and I would submit to you that one of the most important fights of our day is to stop the cheating from the left... I want to say it very clearly and very directly. I believe this election was stolen from Donald J Trump,” there are real concerns among conservatives about the coming election.

According to Zac Anderson of the Herald-Tribune, "False notions that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump are being featured in ways big and small as Republicans gather in Orlando for the Conservative Political Action Conference, from the flags saying 'Trump won' in the vendor booths to the Ohio U.S. Senate candidate who declared to big applause that 'this election was stolen from Donald J. Trump.' That’s a problem for the GOP heading into the 2022 election, experts say."

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Speaking with Anderson, University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett stated the conspiracy rhetoric will prove awkward for Republicans trying to focus on the issues.

"They know if it becomes the central issue of the campaign it might really hurt them,” Jewett explained. "But they know it can’t be totally shunted aside and put behind them because Trump and many of his supporters don’t want to let that happen, at least not yet.”

Anderson wrote, "Many election officials from both parties say the unfounded fraud claims are harmful to democracy. They undermine the legitimacy of election results and elected leaders," before adding, "The fraud claims also appear to be bad politics for Republicans, according to polling. A POLITICO-Morning Consult poll released last week found that 56% of those surveyed opposed Trump’s 'continued focus on his claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.'"

Florida Gulf Coast University professor Peter Bergerson stated it could be disastrous for Republicans, telling Anderson, "I just don’t see that as a winning issue," and adding it won't resonate “with mainstream Republicans and mainstream Americans.”

The report added, "It was clear from CPAC that a big part of the GOP isn’t moving on from the false fraud claims, even as the conference organizers tried to focus on issues where the GOP appears to have broader support."

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