WASHINGTON – More than 24 hours after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the election winner, Republican leaders across the country and many party lawmakers on Sunday refrained from acknowledging his victory, either by keeping the silence or by encouraging President Trump to forge ahead with long-term lawsuits in an attempt to overturn election results in battlefield states.
Even as some prominent party figures, including its only living former president, George W. Bush, have publicly praised Mr. Biden, the vast majority of Republicans have refused to offer the usual declarations of wishes and support for the winner that have always been the norm. in the US presidential elections. Instead, they followed the lead of Mr. Trump, who refused to concede and claimed the election was stolen from him.
Their reactions suggest that even when defeated, Mr. Trump maintained a powerful grip on his party and elected leaders, who spent four years hugging him tightly or working quietly to avoid offending him in any way. who could alienate his loyal base. For many prominent Republicans, the president’s reluctance to accept the election results created a dilemma, making even the most superficial expression of support for Mr. Biden appear to be a blatant break with Mr. Trump.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri was the oldest Republican to suggest that Mr. Trump lost and questioned his allegations of stolen elections, but he refrained from referring to Mr. Biden as president-elect in an extremely thorough television interview. .
“It’s time for the president’s lawyers to present the facts, and it’s time for those facts to speak for themselves,” Mr. Blunt, chairman of the Rules Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It seems unlikely that any changes are big enough to make a difference, but this is a close election, and we have to recognize it.”
“I can’t wait,” Blunt added, “for the president to deal with this, but he has to deal with it.”
In the White House, there was no indication that Mr. Trump was dealing with it at all. As he played a second straight day of golf at his private club outside Washington, the president circulated a baseless claim from Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House, who told Fox News , “I think this is a corrupt and stolen election.“
In private, the president’s advisers, many of whom quietly said that the odds of success in any contesting the election result were not high, wondered how to get him to bow to the reality he had lost.
A large group of them met with the president in the Oval Office on Friday to discuss the way forward. After another meeting at Mr Trump’s campaign headquarters on Saturday, in which political aides exposed the slim chances of changing the race’s outcome, Jared Kushner, senior adviser and the president’s son-in-law, asked the group to go to the Whites. House to describe it to Mr. Trump, according to those briefed at the meeting.
The silence of many prominent Republicans cut both ways for the president. While this allowed Mr. Trump to continue the fiction he had not lost, it also left him fighting the election results without the full and vocal support of his party behind him. Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has refused to say anything since Friday, before the election results were known, when he issued a generic statement urging officials to “count all the votes.” None of his management team did either, other than carefully worded statements from Mr Blunt on Sunday.
At the same time, only two Republican Senate members – Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – and a handful of House members had acknowledged Mr. Biden’s victory on Sunday afternoon, while d others tried to question the results.
“Any legal challenge must be heard,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, leader of the parliamentary minority. “Then and only then will America decide who won the race.”
Speaking on Fox News, Mr McCarthy asked why the media called the presidential race for Mr Biden, who led by tens of thousands of votes in major battlefield states, before drawing a conclusion on contests indeterminate in competitive House districts – many of those in deep blue California and New York – where thousands of mail-in ballots remain countless.
“Why would you call the presidential race first?” He asked.
Likewise, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina urged Mr. Trump to refuse to concede and fight back.
“Do not accept the media statement on Biden,” Mr. Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told Fox News on Sunday morning. He called the election “contested” and urged, “Don’t give in, Mr. President. Fight hard. “
The comments reflected advice from some of Mr. Trump’s top advisers, primarily Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer, who urged him on Sunday to continue fighting the results.
A remarkably small number of Republicans called on the country to move forward.
“Although we have political differences, I know Joe Biden is a good man, who has earned his chance to lead and unify our country,” Bush said in a statement.
In addition, three Republican Blue State Governors – Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Larry Hogan of Maryland and Phil Scott of Vermont – and at least seven House Republicans have acknowledged Mr Biden’s victory.
They included centrist representatives Tom Reed of New York and Fred Upton of Michigan; Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who sharply criticized Mr. Trump; and three lawmakers who will not return to Congress next year: Reps Paul Mitchell of Michigan and Will Hurd of Texas, who are retiring, and Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia, who lost his primary this year.
Alaska Rep. Don Young, whose race remains undecided after a more difficult-than-expected re-election bid, said he wished “the president-elect well in what will undoubtedly be the most difficult chapter of his career. political career.”
“It is time to put the election behind us and come together to work for a better future for our nation,” Young said in a statement.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Romney provided a contrast to many of his fellow Republicans. He said he believed it was “appropriate” for Mr. Trump to pursue recounts and court challenges in some battlefield states, but warned of widespread condemnation of the US electoral system.
“It is important for the cause of democracy and freedom that we do not alleviate fraud and theft, etc., unless there is very clear evidence of it,” Mr. Romney. “To date, this evidence has not been produced.”
Mr Romney noted that he had a legal team prepared to challenge the 2012 election results when he was the Republican nominee, but decided not to move forward once he saw that such efforts would be in vain.
“At some point, truth, freedom and democracy have to rise,” he said, “and you walk away”.
Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker contributed reporting.