Arizona Republican secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem listens to instructions prior to debating Democratic challenger Adrian Fontes on September 22, 2022, in Phoenix.
CNN  — 

Many of the most prominent election deniers within the Republican Party hold two contradictory notions in their heads:

1) The 2020 presidential election was fraudulent.

2) Their own election was fair and entirely above board.

Witness Mark Finchem, the Republican nominee for secretary of state in Arizona and one of the most prominent 2020 election deniers in the country. Finchem has, among other things, pushed to eliminate machine counting of ballots and and empower state lawmakers in the oversight of elections.

And yet, when questioned during a recent debate about his own primary victory last month, Finchem was far less outspoken about the results. Finchem said he had “no idea” whether the primary was conducted in a fair manner. And when prompted to name what had changed between the 2020 election and the 2022 primaries, he responded only “the candidates.”

He is far from the only Republican – at the state or federal level – to stake out these paradoxical positions. Take Pennsylvania, where Republican Doug Mastriano spent months decrying the 2020 election in his state as fraudulent, but said not a word about the 2022 primary results that showed him winning the gubernatorial nomination comfortably.

Or in that state’s GOP primary for Senate, which Dr. Mehmet Oz won very narrowly over businessman Dave McCormick. And yet, neither candidate complained about possible election fraud. (Former President Donald Trump did try to stir up confusion at one point when he advised Oz, who he endorsed, to prematurely declare victory.)

Of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania, McCormick had said “the three-day extension of the ballot, the lack of secure ballot boxes, the lack of oversight in many of the precincts of Philadelphia, so the majority of Republican voters in Pennsylvania do not believe in the outcome of the election.” For his part, Oz has also previously raised vague doubts about the 2020 election outcome.

To believe what the likes of Finchem are selling, you must believe that in the space of less than two years, the massive fraud and ballot problems that were alleged to have happened during the 2020 election have all been cleared up. That, somehow, it’s all better now.

But not even Finchem buys that. Because when asked directly what was different between 2020 and 2022, he doesn’t say anything like the election system has been reformed or fraud has been eliminated. No, he says that the only thing that’s different is the candidates.

The problem here is an utter lack of consistency. You can’t say that the election was rigged when you (or your preferred candidates) lose and that it wasn’t when you win. And if you do, you can’t hope to be taken seriously.