The Big Lie Is Tearing Wisconsin’s GOP Apart

Infighting over the 2020 race could tank Republicans’ hopes for November.

State Rep. Timothy Ramthun listens to Gov. Tony Evers' State of the State address in February.Andy Manis/AP

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Even if most Republicans still think Donald Trump was the real winner of the 2020 presidential race, they seem, by and large, to accept that President Biden is now in office—or at least that their opportunity to decertify the election is long past.

Not so in Wisconsin, where some Republicans’ obsession with overturning the 2020 election continues to divide their party, elevating fringe candidates, alienating establishment ones, and threatening the state GOP’s chances in the upcoming midterm elections.

Take longtime State Assembly speaker Rep. Robin Vos, a Republican whom some county party leaders have demanded resign for his alleged failure to investigate (nonexistent) voter fraud in 2020. In a radio appearance Friday, Vos spent nearly an hour explaining that it’s too late to turn back the clock on the election, the New York Times reports. “It is impossible—it cannot happen,” he said. “I don’t know how many times I can say that.”

But the party’s internal tensions could particularly endanger its hopes for the coming gubernatorial election, in which Republicans hope to oust Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, a thorn in the side of the GOP-led state legislature. Last weekend, conspiracy theorist and state Rep. Timothy Ramthun entered the primary race with the express goal of overturning the 2020 election (and the support of MyPillow guy Mike Lindell). But Ramthun’s presence in the primary is more than a bizarro footnote—it’s actually pushing his Republican opponents to even greater conspiratorial extremes. Back in September, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, the state GOP’s preferred candidate, acknowledged that Biden won in 2020. Last week, she started dodging the question.

Now, Republicans in the state—including the hugely unpopular Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, up for reelection this year—fear that the party’s internecine fighting will become the reason it misses out on the nationwide red wave anticipated for November’s midterms. But Ramthun’s candidacy begs another question: If he wins the election, will he consider the results legitimate?

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