Trump-endorsed candidates are not following his playbook, which is claiming election fraud when they lose

Trump-endorsed candidates are not following his playbook, which is claiming election fraud when they lose
Pennsylvania Republican US Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz and former President Donald Trump in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
  • Trump-endorsed candidates aren't claiming election fraud when they are faced with defeat as Trump often does.
  • For example, Trump urged Dr. Mehmet Oz to declare victory in the tied PA Senate primary, but he hasn't.

Hundreds of Republican candidates running for election in the midterms have sought to mimic Donald Trump's populist rhetoric and combative style, earning them the former president's prized endorsement.

But so far there is one key element of his playbook they are not copying: His refusal to concede defeat when beaten at the ballot, and attempts to undermine negative results with election-fraud conspiracy theories.

The Trump-endorsed Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, a TV physician, is locked in a dead heat with rival David McCormick in the GOP primary.

In messages on his Truth Social app last week, Trump urged Oz to declare victory and cry election fraud, the same tactic he used when defeated by Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, despite a similar paucity of evidence.

Yet Oz, who based his campaign on his closeness to Trump, has so far refused to adopt the approach advocated by his mentor and and said he will wait until the vote count is completed.


In North Carolina, the pro-Trump firebrand Rep. Madison Cawthorn lost his primary and seat in Congress last week to challenger Chuck Edwards after a series of blunders and scandals. Yet Cawthorn did not resort to disputing the result in a bid to cling onto his job, but conceded to Edwards and urged Republicans to get behind his opponent.

Janice McGeachin, a Trump-endorsed candidate in the Idaho gubernatorial race also conceded to incumbent Gov. Brad Little after her primary defeat last week.

All three are ardent backers of Trump's 2020 election-fraud claims, and Cawthorn and McGeachin have blamed the GOP establishment for subverting their campaigns. But it's significant that none have gone so far as to claim the campaigns were rigged.

It may be a different story when pro-Trump challengers are facing Democratic rivals in November, but GOP strategists are saying there are issues of greater concern to voters than questioning election integrity.

John Thomas, a Republican strategist working on House campaigns across the country, told Politico that Trump's influence was fading and the agenda had moved on since his time in office.


"You want the glow and the halo effect of Donald Trump, but he's not shaping policy at the moment," Thomas said. "It matters who can get that nod and that halo effect from Trump, but outside of that, he kind of feels like an ex-president to me."

Analysts and Republican strategists told Insider in March that Trump's support for election fraud conspiracy theories could alienate moderate voters, on which Republican prospects of success in several November elections depend.

Among the key tests of Trump's endorsement strategy is the gubernatorial primary being held in Georgia on Tuesday, but the prospects for the former president and his election-fraud agenda look bleak.

Trump has backed David Perdue to unseat incumbent Brian Kemp as part of a bid for revenge over Kemp's refusal to help Trump overturn the 2020 election when Biden claimed a narrow victory in the state.

But polls are putting Kemp firmly ahead in the race, and he has secured the support of key Republican figures including Mike Pence, in another sign that there are limits to Republican fealty to Trump's election-fraud obsession.