'The key factor feeding Trump’s denial'
Donald Trump's refusal to accept the result of the US election is being enabled by one key factor - senior members of the Republican Party deciding to fall in line behind him.
In the wake of Joe Biden's victory on Saturday, prominent Republicans faced a choice. Would they urge Mr Trump to follow his country's political conventions and concede, or help boost his baseless claims of widespread fraud?
Hardly any chose the former.
As I write this, just four of the Republican Party's 53 senators - Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins - have publicly acknowledged Mr Biden as America's president-elect.
According to the latest tally from Forbes, eight of the 197 Republican members of Congress have done the same.
Three of the 26 Republican state governors - Maryland's Larry Hogan, Vermont's Phil Scott and Massachusetts' Charlie Baker - have congratulated Mr Biden. We could also add Utah's incoming governor, Spencer Cox, to that list.
Finally, former president George W. Bush released a statement several days ago in which he called the outcome of the election "clear", referred to Mr Biden as the president-elect, and told Americans they could have confidence the process had been "fundamentally fair".
That's it. Every other senior Republican has either fully embraced Mr Trump's claims or tried to hedge their bets - either way, refusing to acknowledge the election result.
Speaking on the floor of the Senate on Monday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the President was "100 per cent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options".
"Let's not have any lectures about how the President should immediately, cheerfully accept preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election," he said.
Mr Obama acknowledged Mr Trump as president-elect, promised to facilitate a smooth transition, and urged Democratic voters to accept the result.
Mr McConnell has also celebrated the strong performance of his party's congressional and Senate candidates, even though they were elected on the same ballots Mr Trump now alleges were fraudulent.
Other Republican senators echoed Mr McConnell's stance.
"I think the election is not over until the votes are counted and the legal challenges are decided," said South Carolina's Lindsey Graham.
"That's why I would encourage the President not to concede."
When reporters asked Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson whether he had congratulated Mr Biden, he laughed.
"Nothing to congratulate him about," Mr Johnson said.
Both of Georgia's senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, called on its Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign this week, accusing him of "failing to deliver honest and transparent elections".
They provided no evidence to support their demand, and Mr Raffensperger promptly told them to get stuffed.
"I know emotions are running high. Politics are involved in everything right now. Both senators and I are all unhappy with the potential outcome for our President," he said.
"Here are the facts. The election in Georgia, from an election administration perspective, was a resounding success."
Yesterday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, America's chief diplomat, said the election had yet to be decided.
"There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration," Mr Pompeo told reporters. He later claimed to have been joking.
A reporter asked whether world leaders should refrain from calling Mr Biden to congratulate him on his victory, as they'd been doing since Saturday.
"They understand that we have a legal process. They understand that this takes time. Right? It took us 37-plus days in an election back in 2000. We conducted a successful transition then," Mr Pompeo said.
"I'm very confident that we will count, and we must count, every legal vote. We must make sure that any vote that wasn't lawful ought not be counted. That dilutes your vote if it's done improperly. We got to get that right. And when we get it right, we'll get it right."
That comparison to the 2000 election between Mr Bush and Al Gore has featured prominently in many Republicans' arguments.
In truth, the current situation is completely different. That election came down to a tiny number of disputed votes in one state, Florida. Mr Bush always led, and ended up winning the state by 537 votes, going on to become a two-term president.
To change the outcome in this election, Mr Trump would need to prove fraud or misconduct on an unprecedented scale, invalidating tens of thousands of votes cast for Mr Biden across multiple states.
During an interview with ABC News on Sunday, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem also brought up the Bush-Gore comparison.
"Why is everybody so scared just to have a fair election and find out?" Ms Noem asked.
"We gave Al Gore 37 days to run the process before we decided who would be president.
"Why would we not afford the 70.6 million Americans that voted for President Trump the same consideration?
"If Joe Biden really wants to unify this country, he would wait and make sure we can prove we had a fair election."
Pressed by @GStephanopoulos on whether she has any evidence to support Pres. Trump’s election claims, GOP North Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem does not provide any evidence, but also refuses to acknowledge that Joe Biden as the apparent winner of the presidency. https://t.co/11w6QF8UAy pic.twitter.com/LrmH4T2PbC— ABC News (@ABC) November 8, 2020
Host George Stephanopoulos was not convinced.
"Governor, Al Gore was behind by about 500 votes in one state, Florida. Joe Biden is ahead in all of the close states ... not within the margin that elections are usually turned around on," he pointed out.
"Many, many more states are in play this time around," Ms Noem argued.
"And that's what I think is interesting, is this declaration from some individuals, saying it was an overwhelming victory for Joe Biden. It simply wasn't, because you have so many of these states that are still in play.
"All I'm asking for, George, is that we don't break this country. When you break the process on which we elect our leaders, you will break America forever.
"So this isn't just about this election. This is about every election in the future, and the fact that the American people, the everyday people who get up and work hard, who are suffering through this pandemic, that have tragically lost family members, that they need to know at least America still functions and we care about doing things right."
"It starts with providing evidence. You still have not provided it," Stephanopoulos told her.
The people I've listed here are just the senior, respectable Republicans. Others who are less well known have repeated Mr Trump's claims without any hedging whatsoever.
As Mr Bush said, the result is actually clear, and it has been since Saturday night. It will remain so unless Mr Trump produces evidence to support his claims. A week after the election, that hasn't happened.
You can find a rundown of what the President's campaign has actually alleged in court so far here. The short version is that it has yet to file any lawsuit that would even come close to threatening Mr Biden's margin of victory in a single state.
As things stand, Mr Biden has won 290 electoral votes. The threshold for victory is 270.
He is also leading by 14,000 votes in Georgia, where there will be a recount. Should he eventually win the state, which is likely - recounts typically only shift a few hundred votes - he will end up with a final tally of 306 electoral votes.
If that number sounds familiar, that's because it is the same margin Mr Trump won by four years ago. The President has repeatedly called his own win a "landslide".
Unlike Mr Trump in 2016, Mr Biden has also won the popular vote, which he currently leads by more than five million.
His 50.8 per cent share of ballots cast is the highest for someone challenging an incumbent president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932.
Originally published as The key factor feeding Trump's denial