President Joe Biden used a prime-time speech Thursday to warn Americans that democracy is “under assault” from “MAGA Republicans” who sought to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 election and have pledged to exert more partisan power over future contests.
The Republicans he was talking about did not enjoy it.
Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem, one of several election deniers who won a GOP secretary of state primary this year, panned the speech on Twitter, criticizing Biden for “calling his doubters horrible names” instead of “trying to unite the country.”
Kristina Karamo, an election denier who won the Republican nomination in Michigan’s secretary of state race, retweeted a post from Michigan Rep. Lisa McClain that also accused Biden of “divid[ing] the country” and “attack[ing] all Republicans,” then posted her own reaction, asserting that “totalitarian forces have taken over the modern Democratic Party.”
Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano bused supporters to Washington for the “Stop the Steal” rally that precipitated the Jan. 6 insurrection. He tried to overturn Biden’s victory in the Pennsylvania state legislature.
Mastriano, now a GOP gubernatorial nominee, announced Wednesday that he would sue the congressional committee investigating the insurrection. After Biden’s speech, he retweeted a post from Kathy Barnette, who lost the GOP primary for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat, that accused “the Left” of “demonizing 1/2 of America FOR A PURPOSE.”
Finchem, Mastriano and Karamo’s anger was predictable: Republicans more broadly lost their minds about the speech and characterized Biden as a “fascist” for delivering it.
But Biden’s description was nothing if not accurate ― it was based almost entirely on things they have said about 2020 and what they have pledged to do if elected.
“They refuse to accept the results of a free election,” Biden said, “and they’re working right now as I speak in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself.”
Finchem and Karamo are part of the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a group of candidates running for positions that would allow them to oversee elections in their states. Mastriano, who as governor would appoint Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, is a member of the group, too.
Every candidate in the coalition, which was created by Nevada GOP secretary of state nominee Jim Marchant, questioned the results of the 2020 election and spread various conspiracy theories that it was stolen from President Donald Trump.
After forming the group, Marchant made it clear that the point of the coalition was to boost candidates who believe Trump’s “big lie” in order to “control the election system” and “take back our country.”
Marchant has spread the conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen. Finchem told Arizonans during the primary that he would not have certified the 2020 result and was part of Trump’s “fake electors” scheme that was meant to overturn the election, according to the House committee investigating the insurrection. Finchem was also outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and backed the conspiratorial review of election results in Maricopa County, Arizona, that couldn’t find evidence of fraud despite being designed to do so.
Karamo claimed she witnessed fraud during the 2020 election; her allegations were never proven. Like Marchant and Finchem, she has appeared at rallies alongside adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory. She has spread the conspiracy theory that voting machines switched votes from Trump to Biden.
These candidates and others running for major statewide offices have left little doubt about what they would seek to do if they win: exert partisan control over elections in a way that officials like Georgia Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger (R), Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and Arizona Sec. of State Katie Hobbs (D) wouldn’t two years ago. A victory for any one of them could cause chaos in the 2024 election if they choose to contest the results or delay or deny their certification.
Trump, who endorsed Finchem, Mastriano, Marchant, Karamo and other Republican election deniers in their respective primaries, explicitly argued that that was the point of their candidacies when he campaigned alongside Karamo in Michigan in April.
“This is not just about 2022,” Trump said. “This is about making sure Michigan is not rigged and stolen again in 2024.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified the day of Biden’s speech as Wednesday, but it took place on Thursday.