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GOP’s midterm dilemma: How closely to align with Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump is stepping up his election-year effort to dominate the Republican Party with a Saturday rally in Arizona in which he plans to castigate anyone who dares to question his lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, likely including the state’s GOP governor, Doug Ducey.

But 2,000 miles to the east in Washington, there are small signs that some Republicans are tiring of the charade. Mike Rounds, the generally unassuming senator from South Dakota, was perhaps the boldest in acknowledging the reality that the election was in fact fair. Instead of being shunned, he was supported by his GOP colleagues, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Rounds later said the party needed to get “ louder ” in telling voters the truth about the 2020 campaign.

Meanwhile, top Republicans in Washington have engaged in a behind-the-scenes effort to encourage Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, one of Trump’s most vocal antagonists in the party, to run for a Senate seat . And on Saturday, Glenn Youngkin will become the first Republican since 2010 to be sworn in as Virginia’s governor after running a campaign that kept Trump at arm’s length.

Less than two months before the 2022 primary season begins, Trump remains the most popular figure among the voters who will decide which Republicans advance to the fall general election. But the recent dynamics bring new clarity to the debate that will likely animate the GOP all year: how closely GOP candidates should align themselves with Trump and his election lie.

“I was very encouraged by the response from a number of different senators supportive of Sen. Rounds,” said former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has been a rare Republican urging the party to move on from Trump and his election obsession.

There is no evidence to support Trump’s claims that the election was stolen. Elections officials and his own attorney general rejected the notion. Trump’s arguments have also been roundly rejected by the courts, including judges appointed by the former president.

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