Senior Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are standing behind Senator Mike Rounds after the South Dakota Republican said over the weekend that there was no evidence of fraud sufficient to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 election.
“I think Senator Rounds told the truth about what happened in the 2020 election,” McConnell told CNN on Tuesday. “And I agree with him.”
“I’ve always said I agree that the election was not stolen — at least to the degree that it was illegal theft,” Republican Senator Kevin Cramer, who has acknowledged the possibility in the past that Democrats exploited the relaxed voting rules, such as the expansion of mail-in ballot use, during the pandemic. “I’ve moved on a long time ago, and most members of Congress have, including Mike.”
“I say to my colleague, welcome to the club,” Republican Senator John Thune said about the criticism Rounds received, which he’s also fielded 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.”
While Rounds admitted during a Sunday interview that there were “irregularities” in the 2020 election, he denied that fraud was sufficiently widespread to overturn the results.
“The election was fair, as fair as we have seen. We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency,” Rounds told ABC News.
Former President Trump, who previously endorsed Rounds, swore never to do so again after his comment, asking in a statement: “Is he crazy or just stupid?”
Rounds and other Republican lawmakers have expressed concern that Trump’s election fraud rhetoric will discourage GOP voter turnout and trigger more congressional losses that could cost the party a future majority. For example, some Republicans believe the GOP flopped in two Georgia Senate races in January because Trump instructed his base not to vote in protest against alleged fraud in the 2020 election.
On Monday, Rounds doubled-down on his statement.
“I’m disappointed but not surprised by the former president’s reaction. However, the facts remain the same. I stand by my statement. The former president lost the 2020 election,” Rounds said in a statement on Monday evening. “This isn’t new information. If we’re being honest, there was no evidence of widespread fraud that would have altered the results of the election.”