Why Republican voters say there is ‘no way in hell’ Trump lost

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An election protest in Detroit, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Brad Brooks, Nathan Layne and Tim Reid

Brett Fryar is a middle-class Republican. A 50-year-old chiropractor in the west Texas town of Sundown, he owns a small business. He has two undergraduate degrees and a master’s degree, in organic chemistry. He attends Southcrest Baptist Church.

Mr Fryar did not much like Donald Trump at first, during the US president’s 2016 campaign. He voted for Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the Republican primaries.

Now, Mr Fryar says he would go to war for Mr Trump. He has joined the newly formed South Plains Patriots, a group of a few hundred members that includes a “reactionary” force of about three dozen who conduct firearms training.

If President Trump comes out and says... 'I'm now calling on Americans to take up arms,' we would go

Nothing will convince him and many others here in Sundown - including the town’s mayor, another Patriots member - that Democrat Joe Biden won the November 3rd presidential election fairly.

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They believe Mr Trump’s stream of election-fraud allegations and say they are preparing for the possibility of a “civil war” with the American political left.

"If President Trump comes out and says: 'Guys, I have irrefutable proof of fraud, the courts won't listen, and I'm now calling on Americans to take up arms,' we would go," Mr Fryar said.

Unshakable trust

The unshakable trust in Mr Trump in this town of about 1,400 residents reflects a national phenomenon among many Republicans, despite the absence of evidence in a barrage of post-election lawsuits by the president and his allies.

About half of Republicans polled by Reuters/Ipsos said Mr Trump “rightfully won” the election but had it stolen from him in systemic fraud favouring Mr Biden, according to a survey conducted between November 13th and 17th.

Just 29 per cent of Republicans said Mr Biden rightfully won. Other polls since the election have reported that an even higher proportion - up to 80 per cent - of Republicans trust Mr Trump’s baseless fraud narrative.

Mr Trump’s legal onslaught has so far flopped, yet the election-theft claims are proving politically potent. All but a handful of Republican lawmakers have backed Mr Trump’s fraud claims or stayed silent, effectively freezing the transition of power as the president refuses to concede.

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Mr Trump has succeeded in sowing further public distrust in the media, which typically calls elections, and undermined citizens’ faith in the state and local election officials who underpin American democracy.

However, other Republicans have urged patience and faith in the government. Charlie Black, a veteran Republican strategist, does not believe Republican lawmakers will continue backing Trump’s fraud claims after Biden is inaugurated.

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"People will come to see we still have a functioning government,” Mr Black said, and Republicans will become “resigned to Biden, and see it’s not the end of the world.”

The Biden campaign declined to comment for this story. Boris Epshteyn, a strategic advisor to the Trump campaign, said: “The President and his campaign are confident that when every legal vote is counted, and every illegal vote is not, it will be determined that President Trump has won re-election to a second term.”

In Sundown, Texas, Mayor Jonathan Strickland said there’s "no way in hell" Mr Biden won fairly. The only way he will believe it, he said, is if Mr Trump himself says so.

“Trump is the only one we’ve been able to trust for the last four years,” said Mr Strickland, an oilfield production engineer. “As far as the civil war goes, I don’t think it’s off the table.”

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