Republicans are closing ranks behind Senator Mike Rounds after he endured a mocking attack from former President Donald Trump for acknowledging the reality that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election.
The back-and-forth is the latest sign that many Republicans, particularly in the Senate, are eager to move past the former President’s obsession with the 2020 elections and instead, focus on more fertile ground as the Biden agenda and their efforts seek to take back both houses of Congress in 2022.
“I think Senator Rounds told the truth about what happened in the 2020 election. And I agree with him.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the media on Tuesday, January 11, 2020.
Yet, Trump continues to hover over the party given his outsize influence with the base, his close hold on House Republicans and his ability to generate attention over his outright falsehoods and conspiracies regarding the outcome of the 2020 election.
As a result, it has prompted concerns among senior Republicans that his claims over the election could depress the Grand Old Party (GOP) voter turnout in the fall. This, they consider as something that a number of senators blame, for costing them the two Georgia Senate seats and the majority last January.
The latest blowup came over the weekend after Rounds said that any voting “irregularities” in 2020 wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the race.
“The election was fair, as fair as we have seen. We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency,” Rounds said.
That fact-based comment prompted a broadside from the former President, who called Rounds a “jerk” and “ineffective” and vowed “never” to endorse Rounds for reelection, though he’s not facing voters again until 2026.
“Is he crazy or just stupid?” Trump noted in a statement.
Rounds, who has a low-key and friendly manner and is well-regarded by his colleagues, stood by his comments and said, he was “disappointed but not surprised” by Trump’s statement.
According to him, Republicans need to speak the truth to voters about 2020 so they can have trust in the results of free and fair elections in 2022 and thereafter.
“Nobody is out looking for confrontations,” Rounds said, defending his remarks.
“What we are looking for is to be able to provide good information in a timely fashion, but to be seen as being responsible and being honest. I think that’s what the American people deserve. And I think that’s what many of us want to do. We’re not looking to fight. What we’re looking to say here are the facts, and they’re not going to change.”Senator Mike Rounds
Rounds added: “Why are we having that discussion today? I think because we’re getting closer and closer to 2022, in which we want people to get out and vote. We want them to have faith in the election process. We want them to feel like they’re a part of it and that their vote really matters.”
Even some Trump allies came to Rounds’ defence on Tuesday, January 11, 2022.
“I’ve always said I agree that the election was not stolen, at least to the degree that it was illegal theft,” said Senator Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican who contended Democrats took advantage of more voting rules eased during the pandemic. “I’ve moved on a long time ago, and most members of Congress have, including Mike.”
Other Republicans said it was time to focus on something else, other than 2020.
“I say to my colleague, welcome to the club,” Senator John Thune, the senior South Dakota Republican said of the Trump attack on Rounds, something he has endured himself in the past. “I don’t think re-litigating or rehashing the past is a winning strategy.”
“If we want to be a majority in 2023, we’ve got to get out and articulate what we’re going to do with respect to the future the American people are going to live and the things they’re going to care about when it comes to economic issues, national security issues.”Senator John Thune, the senior South Dakota Republican
Many Republicans were angered over the personal nature of Trump’s attacks against Rounds, who lost his wife in November after battling cancer.
“I take great exception to anybody that calls Mike Rounds a jerk,” said Senator. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican. “Because he’s one of the kindest, nicest, most sincere members that we have.”
Still, some Republicans wanted to stay above the argument.
“Nothing to add to what’s already out there,” Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican and member of GOP leadership, said when asked about the episode.