Quick: What do these two guys have in common? Yeah, yeah, they’re both Republicans from the northeast. I mean more substantively.

The answer is that neither one has nearly as much to lose by crossing Trump on his “voter fraud” storyline as most other GOPers do. Toomey is retiring from the Senate after this term. Christie has no future in New Jersey politics and just survived a near-death experience from COVID that he appears to have contracted from being around Trump. He’s mainly a television commentator these days.

Each man gets to show a little more civic virtue in knocking down the president’s attempt to delegitimize the election than the average Republican because there just isn’t much Trump can do anymore to punish either of them. Watch, then read on.

There are three types of Republican responses to the “I was cheated” narrative. One is the Christie/Toomey nothing-to-lose response: Put up or shut up. Stop burning down the country like a five-year-old with a behavioral disorder because someone took your blankey away.

The second response comes from establishment Republicans who still have something to lose by crossing Trump but don’t depend on his good graces as much as MAGA politicians do. Think Mitch McConnell. These people *want* to show their civic virtue by saying the election was fair but they need to phrase that point … carefully.

That’s a common refrain among this group: Count all legal ballots but also be sure not to count illegal ones — as if that needed to be said. They’re leaving a little wiggle room for Trump to claim that some batch of ballots somewhere was illegal and therefore should be tossed out, but they’re also counterprogramming Trump’s initial “stop the count!” message.

Although we’re past that message now, aren’t we? He’s behind in Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. He needs the count to go on. I think he finally figured that out at some point yesterday.

The third response is pure “burn down the country on the pretense that the election was stolen” cultism. We see this mainly from Republican pols who are either running for president in 2024 or are heavily MAGA-centric, and of course from much of the MAGA media extended universe. I gave some especially fragrant examples in last night’s post but there are more. Ron DeSantis and Lindsey Graham have each entertained the idea of state legislatures ignoring the results of the vote in their states and awarding their electors to Trump if irregularities of some sort can be proved. Sean Hannity proposed simply holding a do-over election in Pennsylvania. Newt Gingrich wants Bill Barr to arrest poll workers or something. Etc etc etc.

Nothing’s going to shift the third group, which depends on the myth of Trump’s invincibility as an organizing principle, but group two will start to tiptoe towards group one as the states finish counting their votes and it’s clear that Trump doesn’t have anything solid to suggest massive fraud occurred. The strongest argument he might potentially have is that ballots that arrived after Election Day were the difference between victory and defeat for Biden. But that’s not what happened in Pennsylvania, where Biden will end up winning fairly comfortably:

Failing that, Trump will have to show massive fraud. Instead — and this is genuinely surprising — his attempts to prove serious irregularities thus far have been feeble. He’s been working on this “just pretend I’ve won” strategy for months; one would think he’d have had something more effective planned to press the case. I thought there’d at least be some minor irregularity on Election Day somewhere that he could point to and blow out of all proportion to suggest that an election-changing bit of deception had occurred. E.g., some poll worker in Philadelphia is caught on cell-phone video throwing a bunch of random papers in a trash can at a polling place and the video gets 30 million views on Facebook under the heading “OMG THEY’RE THROWING OUT BALLOTS.” (Throwing out ballots in deep blue Philly would hurt Biden, of course.) As it is, MAGA world is clinging to claims like the great Sharpie conspiracy in Arizona that supposedly led to ballots being thrown out — but actually didn’t:

There’s also a rumor circulating, amplified by the likes of Ted Cruz, that Republicans in Philadelphia are now being barred from vote-counting centers. Not true either:

Most of Team Trump’s claims are being easily swatted away in court. The closest thing they have to a win is a ruling yesterday that allows ballot-watchers to stand within six feet of vote-counters in Philly instead of 20 feet. To repeat a point I made last night, if Democrats were capable of rigging the count in Pennsylvania, especially in Philadelphia, why on earth would they have allowed Trump to win the state in 2016? And Wisconsin and Michigan too, handing him the presidency? He barely won in all three. It would have taken a comparatively small number of fake votes to flip the entire election for Hillary.

And what are we to make of the fact that Biden is on the cusp of winning Georgia, a state that hasn’t gone blue in nearly 30 years, despite the fact that a Republican governor and Republican secretary of state are presiding over that election? As Ed noted earlier, if Biden wins Georgia and hangs on in Nevada — the latter of which is all but assured now — he doesn’t even need Pennsylvania to get to 270. For all the heavy-breathing about how close this election was, Sleepy Joe may well win with the same number of electoral votes Trump got, with much more of the popular vote than Trump received, and with wider margins in Michigan and Pennsylvania than Trump had four years ago.

I wouldn’t call 306 electoral votes a “landslide,” personally, assuming Biden gets there. But some would disagree:

I don’t think the point of Trump’s flurry of lawsuits is truly aimed at winning the election. He’s too far in the hole in terms of electoral votes to do that, even if he could somehow flip the outcome in a single state. I think it’s just the usual gaslighting tactic of creating enough uncertainty in the minds of people to get them to doubt a reality that’s unpleasant for him. The more suits he files, however frivolous, the more he can say, “Look how many irregularities we found! And the crooked judges didn’t care about any of them!” Every last bit of this is about him saving face so that he never has to admit he lost. It’s not about actually holding on to the White House.

I’ll leave you with this interesting story out of Pennsylvania, which the Daily Beast appears to have corroborated. Ed and I are both skeptical of it but it’s worth reading. Maybe there *is* some attempted voter fraud going on here. But in this case, it wouldn’t be from Team Joe.