Attend a Kari Lake rally, as I did Sunday night, and you will see why so many conservatives will follow her to the ends of the Earth.
Lake has star power. She lights up a stage and can talk coherently for nearly an hour. She flatters her audiences and knows which buttons to push to rile them up and garner sympathy.
This gift poses massive problems for the Arizona Republican Party.
Lake is not rallying her forces to oppose Gov. Katie Hobbs’s outrageously liberal budget or to win school board elections. Instead, Lake is fixated on her narrow defeat last fall. Like former president Donald Trump, who called into her rally to pledge support, she says she was robbed.
Lake told the crowd she has “mountains of evidence.” She claims that “300,000 ballots lacked chain of custody” in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, where she alleges the fraud took place. “A minimum of 140,000 fraudulent mail-in ballots,” which leaned Democratic, were counted despite “bad signatures,” she said. Meanwhile, 250,000 Election Day votes, which leaned heavily Republican, were “spit out and rejected” by faulty tabulating machines. The result: Democratic votes were overcounted; legitimate GOP votes were rejected.
But none of this is true. Fraud, although hard to prove, is easy to detect. If someone were stuffing ballot boxes, the results would be way out of whack compared to those in prior elections. Most places have pretty predictable turnout and voting patterns. If an area suddenly turns from red to blue or has a huge, unexplained turnout spike, something fishy might have happened….
That Lake continues to spout lies to her adoring fans creates huge problems for the state party. Its leaders know why they lost most statewide races and nearly lost control of the legislature. They know they need to win back the votes of some educated Whites while holding on to the people who backed Trump and Lake. Do that, and Arizona goes from the ultimate purple state to one that clearly leans Republican.
But how do they do that when so many of their voters believe in the voter-fraud myth? The base demands obeisance to faith that the election was stolen, and any statewide candidate will be tempted to pander to those views. But doing so would alienate the swing voters they need to win. Three straight election cycles in which Republicans lost narrowly to Democrats in their Senate and gubernatorial races prove that the hardcore base is not enough to win.