Among the mentions of Donald Trump, one holds a special place in his heart: Kari Lake

« It doesn’t matter what you ask Kari Lake – ‘How’s your family?’ And she says: « The family is fine but it will never be great until we have free and fair elections, » the former president has often told donors, according to a source close to the political operation of Trump. » He was like, ‘You could ask him, what’s the weather like?’ And she will make elections out of it. « Oh, the weather in Phoenix is ​​okay, but you can never have good weather unless the election is fair. »

Over the past year, Lake has appeared with Trump at rallies and been spotted at Mar-a-lago events. She is a favorite guest on conservative shows, although she has only appeared on Fox News once in prime time. There has been so much noise around Lake that it has led to speculation in her circles and among her right-wing fans that she might be on Trump’s shortlist for a potential running mate, should she eventually become governor and he was running for president again. Those familiar with Trump’s thinking say they are unfamiliar with such talk and speculation is painfully premature.

« Kari Lake is honored to have the support of President Trump, » Lake’s campaign spokesman Ross Trumble said. « She’s just focused on defeating Katie Hobbs and moving the Arizona First program forward. »

Lake officially secured his party’s nomination on Thursday after a close primary fight. As of Friday, at the CPAC in Dallas, she was greeted like a rock star by the crowd of conservative activists.

“Kari Lake won this tough race in which it was spent 10 to 1 by sticking to the key and vital issue that the 2020 election in Arizona and across the country was rigged and stolen,” Boris said. Epshteyn, Trump’s former special aide in the White House who worked on the ground in Arizona challenging the election results. “The main reasons Kari Lake is widely praised is that she has not deviated and is not afraid of mainstream media, Democrats or RINOs. Kari has stayed true to MAGA’s core issue and she won.

Lake’s rise to status in Trump’s world is not just a testament to the power of the former president’s endorsement and the importance of 2020 election conspiracies in modern GOP politics. It also underscores Trump’s success in putting his stamp on governorships across the country.

While Trump has played a pivotal role pushing MAGA candidates into races for seats from the state house to the US Congress, he has been particularly focused on governors. Allies and aides say he often felt blocked by Republican governors who he felt were not aligned with him while he was in the White House. He also sees governors as key to his potential political future, noting that much of the electoral infrastructure falls within their domain.

That’s especially the case in swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona, where Trump felt cheated in a win. In Pennsylvania, he backed Doug Mastriano, who promoted the ex-president’s false claims of a stolen 2020 election, attended Trump’s January 6 rally and march to the Capitol, and won the nomination. republican. In Michigan, Trump backed conservative commentator Tudor Dixon, who won the Republican gubernatorial primary. Dixon said she believed Trump won the state in 2020 even though he lost to Biden by thousands of votes, and she spoke about her belief that there were irregularities in the 2020 election — although she didn’t go as far as other Republicans in the state in saying the election was stolen.

In Arizona, the Trump-endorsed Lake took on Karrin Taylor Robson, who was backed by former Vice President Mike Pence and incumbent Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, among others. While Robson spent $18 million, Lake spent just $3.8 million — and relied heavily on Trump’s endorsement and media appearances to get voters’ attention.

Trump was unable to unseat incumbent Brian Kemp from the Georgia governor’s seat, despite the encouragement of a primary campaign against him for his refusal to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. And the Trump-endorsed candidate in Nebraska, Charles Herbster, attending the « Stop Theft » rally, failed to win the primary there.

But the president has affected GOP gubernatorial races elsewhere, such as in Maryland, where Trump’s favored nominee Dan Cox beat Kelly Schulz by double digits. Schulz was backed by more establishment Republicans while Cox called Pence a « traitor » for his actions on Jan. 6. And in Arkansas, Trump backed former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who won the GOP primary and is seen as a shoe-string replacement for Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, a critic of Trump’s behavior. January 6th.

The elevation of GOP gubernatorial candidates who trumpet Trump’s lies about the election could have a profound impact on American democracy, political observers warn. If Mastriano, Lake and Dixon found themselves in power, they would be in critical positions to influence the course of the 2024 election. If Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona had gone to Trump in 2020, he would have won a second term. .

But these candidates must first be elected. And a host of Republican strategists have warned they are deeply flawed in general election showdowns precisely because of their allegiance to the former president and the 2020 election lies.

“I think that’s a problem for Republicans in the general election. Voters in general want to look forward, not backward,” said Mike DuHaime, a Republican strategist who led Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential bid and Chris Christie’s 2016 race. Republicans who voted for Trump and may even agree with him on some level are focused on gas prices and inflation and they just aren’t focused on the 2020 election. It’s over whatever happens. For the Republican Party, it is better that the 2022 and 2024 elections are a referendum on Biden and not on Trump. »

Lake is among those who may end up rising high due to his closeness to Trump, only to find that doesn’t play out among a wider electorate. Arizona Republicans say she will have to go beyond MAGA hardliners and embrace the state’s moderates if she is to win against Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs, who is the top election official in the state. Arizona and has spent the past year fighting Lake’s voter fraud allegations.

After Biden narrowly won Arizona in the 2020 election, Trump and his allies embarked on a political crusade to advocate and try to overturn the results. Over the next year and a half, a wave of partisan election « audits », conspiracy theories and lawsuits made Arizona ground zero for efforts to cast doubt on the results of the election. 2020. Many claims made by Trump and his allies have been proven false. Just this week, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich ruled that a claim by Cyber ​​Ninjas, the group that conducted one of the so-called « audits » in the state, claiming that almost 300 deceased people had voted in the elections, was not true. Only one person on the Cyber ​​Ninja roster had died.

“Electoral denial absolutely works in a Republican primary, but when you go to the general election, it’s Kari’s job to reach out to both Republicans who didn’t vote for her and independent or Democratic voters who are unhappy with the direction of the country,” said Barrett Marson, an Arizona-based Republican strategist. “Yes, it plays in the primary, but I don’t know if it will play in the general election. Trump lost Arizona.

After her primary victory, Lake met with Republican Governors Association officials about her work to support her through the general election. The RGA, which helps GOP candidates across the country, is currently chaired by incumbent Arizona Governor Ducey, who backed Robson in the primary.

« The RGA congratulates Kari on her primary victory, and we look forward to working towards her election as Governor in November, » RGA Vice President Kim Reynolds said in a statement.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s primary elections, before the announcement of the results, Lake was interviewed by NBC News if she had a message for establishment Republicans, including Pence and Ducey, that she excoriated in a personal way.

“I want to bring the Republican Party together. We are one big happy, sometimes dysfunctional family, but we can pull together,” Lake said. « I want to bring people together »

But at that press conference, she started talking about unsubstantiated fraud allegations again.

“We have a lot of evidence of irregularities and problems, and we will fix them. I’m not going to leak it to fake news,” Lake said.


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