Opinion: GOP congressman dusts off conspiracy playbook in Virginia primary

Four years ago, Donald Trump could have admitted defeat after he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden. Instead, Trump launched an extended campaign of deceit, a never-ending fire hose of lies and conspiracy theories about election fraud that didn’t exist.

Could it happen again after the 2024 election? We might be seeing one Republican in Congress giving it a test drive right now.

More than a week after he finished second in his GOP primary in Virginia, U.S. Rep. Bob Good isn’t just talking about recounts, he’s making all sorts of claims about election wrongdoing, mimicking Trump’s postelection blitz from 2020.

Good, who heads the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, is trailing by more than 350 votes and certainly has the right to ask for a recount in a close race. Just one tabulation error could have a huge impact.

But like Trump in 2020, Good has also been sounding broad claims about the integrity of the election, making it seem like he was the victim of something nefarious — but he hasn’t offered anything concrete to back up his claims.

“We are looking into evidence of whether data manipulation was used to affect the vote totals,” Good said, making vague assertions about the primary results.

That sounded like 2020, when Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows pressed a crazy claim that Italian military satellites had been switching votes from Trump to Biden in key states.

Along with vowing to block the certification of his apparent primary loss, Good has been sending out conspiracy theory claims on X about “BOMBSHELL” discoveries of administrative fraud, and even called for an entirely new election in the city of Lynchburg, home to Liberty University.

Good’s actions quickly became prime fodder in conservative media.

“This is a practice run for November,” former Trump aide Steve Bannon told Good in an interview last week.

While Good has been working from the Trump 2020 playbook, some Republicans are having a hard time accepting polls about the race for president that run counter to their own views — like a recent Fox News poll that had Biden edging ahead.

“Fox is using polling to prime you to believe that Joe Biden legitimately wins 2024 after they steal it again in Nov.,” U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, said in a post on X.

Whether it’s conspiracy talk about “data manipulation” or just more baseless claims about a “rigged and stolen” election, Republicans aren’t doing themselves any favors.

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Too many in the GOP seemingly only want to accept the results when they win.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C., since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at jamiedupree.substack.com