Big spread of 'big lie' comes into view for GOP: The Note

Beyond Donald Trump's win-loss record in the primaries is a stark reality.

May 23, 2022, 5:58 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

GOP heavyweights are lining up behind their favorites in Pennsylvania in the likely event of an extended recount in the Republican race for Senate.

Former President Donald Trump has a candidate -- as well as a favorite and familiar cause of his own.

Trump is promoting vague and baseless claims of election fraud in that race, in an awkward replay of post-2020 messaging. This time, all the votes in question belong to Republicans.

Meanwhile, as the House's Jan. 6 committee makes final plans for public hearings next month, the disproven allegations surrounding Trump's own loss in 2020 are set to come into even more dramatic view for conservatives as well as the country at large.

Four states are voting Tuesday in statewide primaries. In each of them, Republican candidates for offices that would oversee or help certify future elections continue to advance discredited accusations that the last federal election was stolen.

The biggest contests are in Georgia, where Trump's mission to dislodge the incumbent GOP governor and secretary of state who stood behind President Joe Biden's victory has made those races into marquee and hugely impactful primary contests.

PHOTO: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to reporters in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, April 26, 2022.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to reporters in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, April 26, 2022.
Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton, a leader of failed legal efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is widely expected to fend off a primary challenge by Land Commissioner George P. Bush, despite Bush's pro-Trump break with much of the rest of his family.

In Alabama, surprise late turns in Senate race leave Rep. Mo Brooks back in the conversation in the GOP primary. Brooks was a key Trump ally in and around the events of Jan. 6, but Trump revoked his endorsement because, according to Trump, Brooks went "woke" and urged supporters to move on from the 2020 election. (Brooks remains committed to the "big lie" and is refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee.)

Trump is likely to win some races and lose some races this week, like he did each of the last two weeks. But beyond his win-loss record is a stark reality: A significant group of Republicans who say -- despite all evidence otherwise -- that there was significant fraud in 2020 are going to be on the November ballot for jobs where they will have responsibility over voting in 2024 and beyond.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy drew rebuke from fellow lawmakers and others for comments he made last week appearing to suggest maternal mortality rates in his home state wouldn't be so high if data were "corrected for race" or if the maternal mortality rates for Black women weren't a factor.

"About a third of our population is African American; African Americans have a higher incidence of maternal mortality. So, if you correct our population for race, we're not as much of an outlier as it'd otherwise appear," Cassidy said in an interview with Politico. "Now, I say that not to minimize the issue but to focus the issue as to where it would be. For whatever reason, people of color have a higher incidence of maternal mortality."

What Cassidy (who subsequently contended he was misunderstood) failed to address is this: The reasons behind the disparities in maternal mortality rates are no mystery.

Public health experts have pointed to bias, issues around access to health care and racism's influence in institutions as reasons that Black women in the U.S. are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. In Louisiana, that gap is even wider. There, Black women are four times as likely as white women to die of pregnancy-related causes.

PHOTO: Sen. Bill Cassidy attends a hearing in Washington, May 19, 2022.
Sen. Bill Cassidy attends a hearing in Washington, May 19, 2022.
Mariam Zuhaib/AP

Cassidy's remarks were denounced by Black female House members. There are currently no Black women in the Senate.

"GOP elected officials like Sen. Cassidy have no desire to dismantle these inequities — it's easier for them to ignore them. Because dismantling health inequities means acknowledging systemic racism, and it's against his best interests to do that," tweeted Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J.. She later added," A truly 'pro-life' Senator should have a vested interest in ending maternal health disparities."

"He doesn't seem to be care that Black women are disproportionately dying in his state. His indifference is sickening to read but it helps explain why America continue to struggle with a maternal health crisis," said Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., of Cassidy's comments.

"To think that Sen. @BillCassidy, who is an MD, can downplay Louisiana's maternal mortality rate because a third of the state's population is African American reinforces the underlying biases among medical professionals that might interfere with delivering the best maternal care," tweeted Rep. Robin Kelly, D-IL.

Cassidy is one of four physicians in the Senate. Opposed to abortions, he supports the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the defunding of Planned Parenthood, which advocates and health experts say could more broadly exacerbate the issues with health care and maternal mortality rates.

In response to the controversy over what he told Politico, Cassidy tweeted on Sunday that "individuals are cutting off & misquoting my statements highlighting minority health disparities to create a malicious & fake narrative." He wrote: "My entire conversation was about my work to address racial bias in healthcare & address high maternal mortality among African American moms."

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The race in Pennsylvania's Republican Senate primary is still too close to call nearly a week after Election Day -- making the state the center of false political claims for a second time in the last three years.

On Friday, a federal appeals court ruled that undated mail ballots from last fall's election could be counted, sending lawyers for both Dave McCormick's and Dr. Mehmet Oz's campaigns into battle over every vote in what is increasingly looking like a victory that will come down to the smallest margins. Prior to the ruling, state courts backed Pennsylvania's requirement for voters to include the date on their mail ballots.

PHOTO: Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidates David McCormickand Mehmet Oz during are seen in a composite image from their campaign appearances in Pennsylvania, May 2022.
Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidates David McCormickand Mehmet Oz during are seen in a composite image from their campaign appearances in Pennsylvania, May 2022.

Although the situation raises the specter of the fallout of the state's administration of the 2020 election, this cycle raises a major difference: Neither Oz nor McCormick are challenging the legitimacy of the votes cast, nor are they spreading false conspiracies about the counting process.

"Dr. Mehmet Oz continues to respectfully allow Pennsylvania's vote-counting process to take place and puts his faith in the Republican voters who we believe have chosen him as their nominee," Oz's campaign manager, Casey Contres, said in a statement over the weekend. Contres also accused McCormick's legal team of "following the Democrats' playbook" in an apparent reference to their backing of allowing the undated ballots to be counted.

However, the same courtesy for the process was not expressed by former President Trump, who backed Oz in the primary. Instead, Trump took to a conservative social media outlet to suggest that somehow the state's Attorney General Josh Shapiro -- who is the Democratic nominee for governor and will run against Trump's pick, Doug Mastriano -- is involved with an unspecified conspiracy to count lawfully cast mail in ballots in the Republican Party. Neither Oz nor McCormick have expressed similar claims.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

11. That's the number of big primaries to watch in Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota (which has a special race ahead of its statewide primary later this year) and Texas on Tuesday night. (Stay tuned for our Georgia primaries preview tomorrow.) And as FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich and Alex Samuels write in their preview, the big things to watch are once again how those who claim the 2020 election was fraudulent fare and whether Trump's endorsees prevail. Democrats also face another establishment-progressive showdown in the runoff in Texas's 28th Congressional District. We'll once again be liveblogging Tuesday's races, so be sure to follow along at FiveThirtyEight's live blog, starting at 6:30 p.m. ET.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Monday morning with an update on the baby formula shortage and where a large shipment for thousands of infants is headed in the U.S. ABC's Faith Abubey leads us off. Then, ABC's Rick Klein breaks down everything you need to know about this week's primary in Georgia. And, ABC's Sony Salzman reports on the growing monkeypox cases around the globe.


At 1:00 a.m. ET, President Joe Biden will hold a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. The two will then host a closed press meeting with families of "Japanese citizens abducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea several decades ago" at 1:40 a.m. ET, the White House said.

Biden is slated to formally launch is new Indo-Pacific economic framework for prosperity, delivering remarks at Izumi Garden Gallery at 3:30 a.m. ET.The president ends his day attending a closed press dinner hosted by Fumio at Kochūan, a restaurant in Tokyo, at 6 a.m. ET.The House Committee on Rules will convene at 3 p.m. ET to discuss the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act and the Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act, among others.

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

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