"Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in." Michael Corleone's most memorable quote from the third installment of the Godfather trilogy no doubt is ringing in the minds of Republicans planning on running campaigns next year, either as candidates or political operatives.
Republicans are guardedly optimistic about their chances to win their first gubernatorial election since 2009 in increasingly blue Virginia next month. However that contest turns out, they are bullish on the 2022 midterm elections, where they would not even need a 1994- or 2010-style wave year to wipe out the Democrats' razor-thin congressional majorities.
Then came a tweet-like statement from former President Donald Trump almost perfectly designed to dampen Republican turnout. "If we don't solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in '22 or '24," he said. "It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do."
Many Republicans can think of a lot of other, higher priorities than investigating the 2020 election. (Trump himself asked in his very next statement, "How come the Fake News Media doesn't talk about Afghanistan anymore?") They would like to put the focus on President Biden and the Democrats. And convincing rank-and-file conservatives that elections are rigged arguably discouraged them from voting in the Georgia runoffs and the California recall.
In addition to conservative fears of inadvertently suppressing their own voters, why would Republicans like to go back to this being a binary choice between two not-so-popular White House occupants or, even worse, a referendum on Trump and his 2020 election claims? Biden's polling nosedive has coincided with him being in office long enough to no longer be graded on the Trump curve — which may have been the difference-maker last year even as Republicans gained seats in the House.
If voters are unhappy with Biden, many of them will have no choice but to vote Republican — unless Trump gives them one. His statements are ephemeral, but Democrats clearly welcome him being pulled back in. They'd like nothing better than to make the midterms a mob movie.