Former President Donald Trump will be the undisputed leader of the Republican Party when he takes to the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference this Saturday.
However, at the annual gathering conservative activists, his signature topic -- perpetuating the lie about the 2020 election being stolen -- was firmly put on the backburner.
CPAC hosted a seven-part panel series about "protecting election" at last year’s event. It was held months after Trump's defeat to President Joe Biden. The conference agenda included one event that was devoted to 2020 and election administration. However, it wasn't openly advertised.
Trump's push to make this issue a defining issue at the meeting of his most loyal supporters this year is not the only sign that wider Republican interest may be declining.
Recent polling, Republican statehouse leaders' actions and numbers for candidate fundraising have shown that Trump is still fixated on 2020. Others have moved on, or would like to do so. Some Republicans have also found that they are not tolerant of Trump supporters' election denial antics.
This month's Morning Consult/Politico poll found 50 percent of GOP voters wanted to stop talking about 2020. Only 37 percent said they wanted to keep their eyes on it. However, the same poll showed that the majority of Republican support Trump's current presidential election. Another Quinnipiac University survey released this month showed 52 percent of Republicans agreeing with Trump's prediction that he could overturn the January election. Only 36% agree with Trump.
The trend in searches for phrases like election fraud, voter fraud, and other key phrases has been downwards over the past year.
Charlie Black, a long-time Republican lobbyist, said to NBC News that, "except for a very small group," Republican voters don't care anymore about 2020.
He said, "If you take a look at Trump's polling with Republicans, it has been declining all year." "And the more he rants about how the election was stolen, the less it will continue to fall." He could run again if he wanted to, but he isn't.
Recent polls for the far-off 2024 GOP Primary show Trump with an impressive lead over any potential rival. However, they also show that the primary electorate is split between wanting Trump or wanting someone else.
Trump seems to ignore warning signs regarding the status of the election fraud narrative among GOP voters.
Trump called Fox News Wednesday night, as Russia invaded Ukraine.
The ex-president has made a series of false fraud claims in a number of statements just this month.
A Trump adviser spoke directly to him about his focus on fraud claims and said that he would not change his approach anytime soon.
This person stated, "Look, it's not going to stop him from believing it." He believes it. He's going to talk about it."
Another adviser stated that the former president and his staff are closely monitoring the fraud focus polls.
"Is it something you might consider now? No. It will become one. "Yes," said this person. "We are watching the numbers on this issue. He pays attention to that."
Trump spokeswoman did not respond to our requests for comment.
In an interview, former Rep. Barbara Comstock said that people look to others to lead and that he is decreasing in importance every day. It's become absurd. Even those who may buy into it say, "Yeah. I gotta go on."
Although Republicans on the trail and in Congress have been focusing more on issues such as crime, inflation, and education in recent months, this issue could still have a significant impact on the crowded GOP primary fields, where candidates can win with a majority of the vote. CPAC heard Josh Mandel, a candidate in the wide-open Ohio Senate primary, say that he believes Donald J. Trump stole this election to loud applause.
The Republican-led state legislatures currently consider a new round to amend election laws. There are also ongoing investigations into key presidential battleground states, such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, regarding the last presidential election.
However, there have been limits. In Wisconsin the GOP statehouse leaders rejected a plan to retract 10 state electoral votes. The Republican state Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke tweeted that the resolution was "plain unconstitutional" that there is "ZERO chance that I will promote this illegal resolution."
The state rep. Timothy Ramthun introduced the resolution, and is currently running as governor.
In Arizona, the epicenter of the election denial movement in Arizona, Republican state House Speaker Rusty Bowers (a Republican) stopped from passing a bill that would have allowed lawmakers reject election results. Soon thereafter, he diminished an attempt by Mark Finchem (the Trump-backed candidate to be secretary of state) to "decertify the election in the counties Biden won.
Bowers, who is running for a seat in the state Senate, called Finchem’s attempt "obviously nonconstitutional" and "profoundly unwise."
Pennsylvania's President Joe Biden narrowly defeated Trump in 2020. Melissa Hart, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, said that there was a clear divide between voters who care about "election integrity" versus those who hope that Biden's win can be reversed.
"Some people's top concern is integrity of vote. She said that the concerns are still present. "There are now fewer people who deal with the issue of the vote, and try to overturn it." This is not something I am interested in.
Recent reports on campaign finance, as well as polling in key races, suggest that there may be limitations to the fraud narrative. Governor. In Georgia, Gov. Recent polling shows that Kemp leads Perdue.
While Finchem has outraised the Democrats running for Arizona secretary-of-state, he's also brought in less than Beau Lane, a Republican candidate in the primary.
In Michigan, Matt DePerno (Trump-backed candidate for attorney General), who made widely disproven claims of voter machine manipulation in the state and rose to fame by making these claims, has raised less than half the amount that Tom Leonard, his former speaker of Michigan House, did last quarter. The party convention will decide the outcome of this primary and other down-ballot statewide races within the state.
DePerno's campaign pointed out Leonard's higher number of individual contributions to show that he is better placed to win the nominating contest.
Leonard advised that the candidate wants to restore "confidence" in elections. However, "when you look at [the race] holistically there are many important issues."
Finchem didn't respond to a request for comment. Lane's adviser stated that Lane sees the job as secretary of state, which oversees elections, as being similar to refereeing basketball games.
Lane advised that "if you don't notice them, they probably did quite a good job."
Mike Lindell, CEO of My Pillow, is one of the foremost promoters of false fraud claims. He has invested millions of his own money in efforts to disprove spurious claims. According to Lindell, NBC News has no reason to believe that there is a decline in interest in the topic. He claimed that the current focus is 100 times greater than it was a year ago.
Lindell, however, said that the conference was "in fear" and didn't want any discussion about 2020.
Chad Houck is the deputy secretary of state for Idaho, where Lindell has spread many conspiracies. He says that it's mixed to see if the energy around fraud conspiracies recedes.
Houck, a Republican said that "I believe the specific interest groups who are the most motivated, have dug in their heels in harder."
Officials in Idaho have issued a cease-and-desist order to Lindell to discredit his false claims about the vote count in a state Trump has won by 30 points.