'Big lie' animates GOP primaries ahead of voting season: The Note

Trump’s influence is on the line in some races.

April 26, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Former President Donald Trump's false claims about the 2020 election are a huge issue in a small number of Republican primaries playing out this spring and summer.

Perhaps just as telling are the races where they aren’t much of an issue at all -- because the GOP candidates don't actually disagree with Trump.

In the Georgia gubernatorial race, Gov. Brian Kemp and former Sen. David Perdue sparred over the "big lie" for more than 20 minutes at the top of the first debate Sunday. Perdue falsely said Kemp "caved in and gave the elections" to Democrats in the 2020 cycle, while Kemp said Perdue should blame himself for losing his Senate race.

But perhaps more typical of GOP primary season is the Ohio Senate race, where the first major voting of the year takes place next Tuesday. Trump's newly endorsed candidate, J.D. Vance, appeared alongside Trump on Saturday while the former president repeated discredited claims about the last election -- claims Vance is also trumpeting.

PHOTO: JD Vance speaks on stage with former President Donald Trump during a rally at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Delaware, Ohio, on April 23, 2022.
JD Vance speaks on stage with former President Donald Trump during a rally at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Delaware, Ohio, on April 23, 2022.
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via USA Today Network

That's not particularly controversial in the race. At a recent debate, when the moderator asked all the major GOP candidates whether they thought it would be better for the Republican Party if Trump moved on from talking about 2020, only one of the five raised his hand.

One of those who didn't, Josh Mandel, got huge applause at a campaign event Thursday when he said "this election was stolen," ABC News' Rachel Scott and Allison Pecorin report.

In Michigan over the weekend, the state GOP nominated election conspiracy candidates for both secretary of state and attorney general. Depending on how primary season plays out, there may be more than a dozen states where Republicans are running for offices that would leave them in positions to actually do what Trump wanted after he lost the 2020 race.

Trump's influence is certainly on the line in many of the races in which he's chosen to endorse. But even as new Jan. 6 information comes to light, implicating members of Congress and Trump's inner circle in plots to overturn the election, that same influence has already had an incalculable impact.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Hundreds of text messages between former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and various allies of Trump capture both the chaotic aftermath of the attack at the Capitol and efforts by Trump's inner circle to find a way for him to stay in power.

Some of the more than 2,300 text messages first released by CNN are from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has downplayed the events of the Jan. 6 attack and fomented conspiracy theories about it but expressed deep concern that day.

"Mark I was just told there is an active shooter on the first floor of the Capitol Please tell the President to calm people This isn't the way to solve anything," Greene wrote.

PHOTO: Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows listens during an announcement of the creation of a new South Carolina Freedom Caucus based on a similar national group at a news conference on April 20, 2022, in Columbia, S.C.
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows listens during an announcement of the creation of a new South Carolina Freedom Caucus based on a similar national group at a news conference on April 20, 2022, in Columbia, S.C.
Jeffrey Collins/AP

A few days before President Joe Biden's inauguration, Greene suggested invoking martial law to Meadows in hopes he would share it with then-President Trump.

"In our private chat with only Members, several are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall [sic] law," wrote Greene. "I don't know on those things. I just wanted you to tell him. They stole this election. We all know. They will destroy our country next. Please tell him to declassify as much as possible so we can go after Biden and anyone else!"

Greene currently faces a legal challenge to her reelection effort based on her actions related to the attack on the Capitol. A group of voters wants to remove her from the state's ballot citing a provision of the Constitution's 14th Amendment known as the "disqualification clause," which could bar her from running if she "engaged in insurrection" against the United States or "given aid or comfort" to its "enemies."

During Greene's testimony under oath Friday, she repeatedly said she didn't recall when asked if she advocated for martial law. It remains to be seen whether this trove of text messages will have any bearing on the outcome of her case.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Just hours after Trump announced he would be heading to western Pennsylvania for a rally next week, the field of Republican Senate candidates took to the debate stage for the first time since Dr. Mehmet Oz received Trump's endorsement.

The endorsement loomed over the debate as candidates echoed support for Trump-era policies while throwing jabs at the top-spending contenders, Oz and David McCormick. Oz was blasted by his fellow Republicans for what they saw as switching his opinions on conservative positions like being against abortions, while McCormick fended off attacks about alleged ties to business dealings in China.

PHOTO: Kathy Barnette, Jeff Bartos, Dave McCormick, Mehmet Oz, and Carla Sands, Republican Party candidates vying to replace U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, debate from the abc27 studio in Harrisburg, Pa., April 25, 2022.
Kathy Barnette, Jeff Bartos, Dave McCormick, Mehmet Oz, and Carla Sands, Republican Party candidates vying to replace U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, debate from the abc27 studio in Harrisburg, Pa., April 25, 2022.
WHTM ABC27 News

Other candidates leaned into highlighting their conservative experience. Carla Sands repeatedly noted her experience working in the Trump administration as ambassador to Denmark, while businessman Jeff Bartos addressed his focus on "Main Street Pennsylvania." Meanwhile, conservative political commentator and veteran Kathy Barnette claimed Trump's endorsement of Oz put a sharper spotlight on the television doctor for his past comments, thereby granting her "the benefit out of that particular endorsement" as a true conservative.

"MAGA does not belong to President Trump, MAGA -- although he coined the word -- MAGA is actually, it belongs to the people. Our values never, never shifted to President Trump's values. It was President Trump who shifted and aligned with our values," Barnette said.

In an allusion to the former president's continued false claims of 2020 election fraud, each candidate was asked whether they believed it was time for Republicans to move past questioning the last election's results -- none of the candidates directly agreed about moving on.

"I had discussed it with President Trump, and we cannot move on," Oz said.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

90. That's the percentage of Black Americans who typically vote Democratic in U.S. elections. No other racial or ethnic group in the U.S. backs one of the two major parties as uniformly, but as FiveThirtyEight's Alex Samuels writes, it has created a Catch-22 in which both Democrats and Republicans end up ignoring the policies most important to Black voters.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Tuesday morning covering Elon Musk's deal to buy Twitter and what it means for the future of the social media platform. Then, ABC's Jonathan Karl reports on the fallout from texts and recordings of Trump's inner circle in the days after Jan. 6. And, ABC's Mireya Villarreal breaks down the case of Texas death row prisoner Melissa Lucio, who was granted a stay of execution. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events