Wall Street Journal op-ed: Wisconsin GOP Suicide Watch

Fantasies about undoing 2020 will help re-elect Gov. Tony Evers.

Donald Trump’s delusions about the 2020 election are the gift that keeps on giving — to Democrats. “We don’t wear tinfoil hats,” says Wisconsin state Rep. Timothy Ramthun. Yet he is running for governor while urging lawmakers to somehow “reclaim” the “fraudulent electoral ballots” that Wisconsin gave to President Biden.

Where to begin? There is no legal route for a state to undo the Electoral College votes cast in December 2020 and counted on Jan. 6, 2021. Zero, zip, zilch. Even if Mr. Trump had won Wisconsin’s 10 electors, he still would have lost the White House. Wisconsin Republicans have legitimate gripes about how voting rules were bent during the pandemic, including the use of ballot dropboxes and the private funds that flowed to local election offices.

But the GOP’s strategy should be to pass legislation that clearly bans such practices, which requires beating Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November. Mr. Ramthun’s crusade is an in-kind donation to Mr. Evers’s reelection. A pep rally to launch Mr. Ramthun’s campaign this month brought out hundreds of supporters, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, and it was kicked off with remarks by pillow impresario Mike Lindell, who has been sued for defamation by a voting-machine company for his claims about the 2020 election.

“Anyone who thinks that states can “reclaim” electors, so as to oust Mr. Biden in some kind of glorious revolution and effect a Trump restoration, has lost view of reality.”

Mr. Ramthun is circulating a 72-page presentation full of specious claims. It says Wisconsin has 5.9 million people, yet its voter database includes 7.1 million records. As state officials explain, more than half of the voter records are inactive: “Wisconsin law requires that there be an active and an inactive voter list in part because a voter record is a historical record that cannot be deleted.”

Mr. Ramthun’s presentation claims the 2020 results were “a statistical impossibility.” As evidence it cites a document full of stuff like this: “Since 1892, no incumbent has gained votes and lost re-election.” But turnout was huge in 2020, while Mr. Trump also repelled many suburbanites. A hand audit of Wisconsin ballots by a conservative group found major ticket splitting in Mr. Biden’s favor. In some wards, 10.5% of Biden voters went for the GOP down ballot.

A president can be removed from office if he is impeached or incapacitated, but there is no undoing the Electoral College vote. Anyone who thinks that states can “reclaim” electors, so as to oust Mr. Biden in some kind of glorious revolution and effect a Trump restoration, has lost view of reality.

The 2022 elections should be the GOP’s oyster. A Democrat is in the White House, inflation is at 40-year highs, and labor-dominated cities have clung to COVID-19 rules long after the public moved on. Mainstream Republicans like former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who is also challenging Mr. Evers, should take a lesson from what Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin pulled off last year. Instead, they’ll be getting hostile questions about Mr. Ramthun’s pet theories.

Mr. Trump’s false claims about 2020 already helped Republicans lose Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats last year, and that was one expensive blunder. Now it could split Wisconsin conservatives, aid Mr. Evers’s reelection, and perhaps defeat Sen. Ron Johnson. If that’s what ends up happening, Mr. Trump won’t regret it for a second, because he never does. Wisconsin Republicans will regret it for years.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in the Feb. 22 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

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