On Sunday, South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds was asked a blunt question by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “What do you say to all those Republicans, all those veterans who believe the election was stolen, who have bought the falsehoods coming from former President Trump?” Here’s how Rounds responded (bolding is mine): “We looked – as a part of our due diligence, we looked at over 60 different accusations made in multiple states. “While there were some irregularities, there were none of the irregularities which would have risen to the point where they would have changed the vote outcome in a single state. “The election was fair, as fair as we have seen. We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency. And moving forward – and that’s the way we want to look at this – moving forward, we have to refocus once again on what it’s going to take to win the presidency. “And if we simply look back and tell our people don’t vote because there’s cheating going on, then we’re going to put ourselves in a huge disadvantage. So, moving forward, let’s focus on what it takes to win those elections. We can do that. But we have to let people know that they can – they can believe and they can have confidence that those elections are fair.” This is, of course, all perfectly accurate. There is simply no evidence of any sort of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Some states in which the vote between Joe Biden and Donald Trump was very close have recounted the vote multiple times, with no change in result. In Georgia, for example, the vote was recounted three times – including once by hand – and no significant irregularities or changes were found. Given all of that, it should not be terribly newsworthy when a Republican elected official acknowledges that Biden won fair and square. “Dog bites man” isn’t usually a story. But, we are in very unusual times. And, for Republicans, Trump has made believing in the Big Lie that the election was stolen a loyalty litmus test. Despite all of the objective facts pointing to a fair election, the former President remains utterly obsessed with relitigating 2020. “‘Senator’ Mike Rounds of the Great State of South Dakota just went woke on the Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020. He made a statement this weekend on ABC Fake News, that despite massive evidence to the contrary, including much of it pouring in from Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and other states, he found the election to be ok – just fine. Is he crazy or just stupid?” Trump said in a statement Monday morning. (Trump has also been openly critical of Rounds’ home state Senate colleague – John Thune. Thune, after weighing retirement, announced over the weekend that he is running for another term in 2022.) Unfortunately for the health and future of the GOP, many of its elected leaders – and rank in file – are falling in line with Trump’s falsehood. A December 2020 survey of Republicans in Congress by The Washington Post revealed that only 27 members acknowledged that Biden had won the election. And, on January 6, 2021, 139 Republican House members and 8 Republican senators voted to object to challenges to either the Arizona and Pennsylvania results. The following month, when asked whether the election was stolen, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise responded this way: “Joe Biden’s the President. There were a few states that did not follow their state laws. That’s really the dispute that you’ve seen continue on.” In the interim, Republican candidates – for Senate and House – from all over the country have put election denialism at the center of their campaigns as they try to attract an endorsement from the former President. “I get attacked by my opponents for saying this, but I believe it very strongly and so I want to say it up here: I believe the election was stolen from Donald J. Trump,” said Josh Mandel, one of the leading GOP candidates in the Ohio Senate race. All of which makes what Rounds said – aka the objective truth – a bit of an outlier within his party. Which, well, stop and think about that for a minute. Acknowledging a fact that has been proven time and time and time again in swing states across the country makes you an exception within one of the country’s two main political parties. That’s what Republicans – like Rounds – who are trying to steer their party back toward a more fact-based reality are up against.