Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, said Wednesday that President Trump’s attempts to stop votes from being counted in Pennsylvania and Michigan are “un-American” and “wrong.”
“I’m grateful and truly grateful that so many Republicans, so many conservative Republicans, have repudiated his remarks as being inappropriate — I’ll say un-American — because to a certain extent he’s trying to disenfranchise not only millions of Pennsylvanians, but millions of voters in Michigan and Wisconsin and Nevada and elsewhere,” Ridge said.
“So, Mr. President, you were wrong,” said Ridge, who was secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush.
Ridge’s comments, on a call organized by a group called the National Council on Election Integrity, came as members of the Trump campaign ramped up attempts to try to claim victory in key states before all votes had been counted.
And it raised the question of how other Republicans, especially those currently holding elected office, will respond in the next day or two if Trump continues to try to falsely claim he is the winner.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said on Fox News that while he is a Trump supporter, “if it ends up being Biden, all of us will accept that, because that’s what we do in this country.”
Joe Biden appears on track to win the presidency regardless of who wins Pennsylvania if his leads in Arizona and Nevada hold. Fox News and the Associated Press have called Arizona for Biden. The AP and other news organizations called Michigan for Biden early Wednesday evening.
But Trump sought once again to claim, falsely, that he had won Pennsylvania. “We have claimed, for Electoral Vote purposes, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he tweeted, in a post that was quickly flagged by Twitter. He also made the false allegation that Pennsylvania has not allowed poll watchers.
The president’s fantastical statement was quickly mocked even by some on the right. “That’s not how this is done,” tweeted Erick Erickson, a conservative talk radio host.
But the attempt to prematurely declare victory was echoed on social media by Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Trump’s children.
Trump’s vote count in Pennsylvania is currently 3,104,658 to Biden’s 2,761,196, a lead of over 440,000. But there are over a million mail ballots still uncounted in Pennsylvania, and those mail ballots have been cast more by Democrats than Republicans. The question now is whether Biden has enough votes among those uncounted ballots to overtake Trump’s lead in the state.
The only reason America is waiting for mail ballots to be counted for days after the election in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin is that the legislatures in those states did nothing to avoid this scenario, despite a chorus of warnings from Republicans, Democrats and nonpartisan voting experts.
Almost every state in the country allowed election clerks to open mail ballots at least a week or two before Election Day so they could check them for things like signatures, recognizing that there would be unprecedented numbers of mail ballots due to concerns over COVID-19. But these three states ignored pleas to make this simple change.
It was always anticipated that Trump — expecting a lead in these states and knowing mail ballots would skew toward the Democrats — might try to falsely claim victory before many votes were counted. That is what he has done over the last day.
Ridge’s criticism of Trump echoed that of Trump ally Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, who said the president had “undercut his own credibility” by attempting to declare victory early Wednesday morning.
“I think it’s a bad strategic decision, it’s a bad political decision, and it’s not the kind of decision you would expect someone to make tonight who holds the position he holds,” Christie said.
And conservative pundit Ben Shapiro, who has a significant audience on the right, tweeted that “Trump has not already won the election, and it is deeply irresponsible for him to say he has.”
But Shapiro also shared an article later in the day that made, without any evidence, allegations of cheating on the part of Democrats and accused them of trying to steal the election.
Another Republican on the call organized by the National Council on Election Integrity, former Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, lambasted Republicans for making empty complaints about fraud.
“There is no evidence of fraud,” Wamp said. “We’ve gotten this far and we’ve seen zero.”
“Let me say to my conservative friends: This is not an election that we have any reason to doubt the actual counting of votes. There’s no there there,” Wamp said. “Let’s try to stand on the truth, which conservatives should be about, and whatever the truth is, we accept it. Whatever the outcome is, we’re going to accept it. Let’s give them the time to get to the real outcome.”
“And I say that to both camps,” Wamp said, criticizing comments made by Biden lawyer Bob Bauer, who said on a call with reporters, “We’re winning the election. We’ve won the election.”
“It’s not helpful for the Biden team to jump the gun today,” Wamp said.
Biden himself was more measured. “I’m not here to declare we’ve won. But I am here to report, when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners,” he said.
And the Biden campaign, in contrast to the Trump campaign, is not trying to stop votes from being counted.
Wamp said candidates should put the country first.
“It’s more important that this process of a peaceful transfer … prevail than it is a person named Trump or a person named Biden or even a party or an ideology,” he said. “It’s the country that matters.”
Correction: This article originally stated that the Associated Press had not called Arizona for Joe Biden. The error has been corrected.
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