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Would Republicans back congressional candidates tied to Jan. 6?

The national Republican Party would never consider backing candidates tied to Jan. 6, right? If only it were that simple.
Image: Capitol riot
Rioters attempt to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.Eric Lee / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

There are already a significant number of Republican state legislators tied to the events of Jan. 6, but what if some of Donald Trump's radical followers who were in D.C. the day of the attack on the Capitol decided to actually run for Congress?

As Politico reported, this is no longer a hypothetical concern.

One of those GOP candidates, Derrick Van Orden in Wisconsin, has distanced himself from the violence, saying he left the pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" rally after rioters began breaking into the Capitol and that he never went inside. But another Republican congressional hopeful, Teddy Daniels in Pennsylvania, posted a video from near the Capitol steps with the caption: "I Am Here. God Bless Our Patriots." Then there's Tina Forte, a long-shot GOP candidate seeking to unseat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who posed for a picture the day of the attack wearing what appears to be black body armor. In another photo from that day, the right-wing influencer displayed a white power hand gesture.

On the surface, it may be tempting to dismiss these fringe figures as irrelevant. Most American adults can run for whatever office they please, and if some obscure right-wing activists decide to launch longshot congressional campaigns, that's their business.

It's not as if the Republican Party at the national level would ever consider backing such candidates, right?

If only it were that simple.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) is the current chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which is principally responsible for helping the party try to regain the House majority. The Minnesota congressman held a town-hall event last week and fielded a question along these lines.

"I've seen reports that many patriots that rallied in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 are now running for Congress," a voter asked. "Do you support these patriots in their efforts to take back America?"

Ideally, Emmer would've made clear that he and his party support candidates from the American mainstream, not the American fringe, and the NRCC wants nothing to do with extremists tied to the events of Jan. 6.

Except, that's not how the Minnesotan responded. After noting that he didn't know specifically which candidates the women might be referring to, Emmer said, "[T]he beauty of this country is that anybody who wants to run for office, can. Whether we're talking about people we agree or disagree with, they can certainly ― we can run.... I want as many people as possible who share our values to step up and be the voice and run for office."

Or put another way, while Emmer has called for "accountability" for criminals, the NRCC chair wasn't prepared to rule out the possibility of backing those who "rallied" on Jan. 6.

It's a dynamic worth watching as the 2022 election cycle nears.