Kari Lake is being advised that she will likely lose the Arizona governor’s race

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PHOENIX — Kari Lake, who is staring at a potential loss in the Arizona governor’s race, is being advised by GOP operatives and some of her closest aides to take a measured approach. should she get fewer votes than “storm the palace,” as one person present at the debate described the sentiment.

Lawyers, political operatives and others around the Republican nominee worked from a “war room” at a Scottsdale resort over the weekend to prepare him for a tough loss to Democrat Katie Hobbs, according to people familiar with the discussions. who wished to remain anonymous to share private information.

Lake has been one of the nation’s most outspoken supporters of former President Donald Trump’s debunked claims that he was rigged to win the 2020 election. Voters rejected down-ballot candidates in key battleground states across the country this year, and many of those candidates have responded by doing what Trump wouldn’t: concede defeat.

With about 160,000 votes still to be counted, Lake trailed Hobbs by 26,000 on Monday. Recent results haven’t been as favorable to Republicans as Lake would need to close the gap. She may even be slipping out of range that would trigger a recount, which occurs when candidates are separated by no more than 0.5 percent of the vote.

Some campaign aides and Republican operatives, looking at internal data, have grown increasingly doubtful that Lake has a path to victory over the past three days. To remain viable, they said, she may need to claim as much as 65 percent of the next batch of votes in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and more than half of the state’s voters, but Pima County, home to Tucson, also outperforms.

Trump encouraged his supporters to march on the US Capitol after his loss, and the question of how Lake will react to the defeat has remained one of the biggest unanswered questions of the 2022 election. The candidate has been deceptive in her public statements since Election Day. She has sharply criticized Maricopa County for voting machine malfunctions and hinted at scheming, partisan motives, and urged patience while the votes are counted.

In the Lake war room, where the mood has shifted from giddy anticipation to somber resignation in the past week, the debate has focused on how Lake should talk about the loss. Among those who have spoken are some of the biggest names in Trump’s orbit, including Stephen C. Bannon and Christina Bobb, the former One America News executive who helped review 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County after the 2020 election. On Sunday, Trump himself called.

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Discussions have ranged from how Lake could concede a loss to whether she should accept Trump’s playbook and claim the election was stolen from her. Some want her message to focus on problems with printers on Election Day, which affected 30 percent of polling stations.

“No one is opposed to storming the palace,” said one person familiar with the discussions, while several people said the talks were fluid and that anger about the process had been expressed on Election Day.

People around the lake have told her it wouldn’t be in her best interest to claim the election was stolen. They have also warned of potential damage to Arizona and the country more broadly if the “Stop Steal” movement begins to revive in the state. Others have cautioned against disrupting the ongoing count and ruled that the campaign could do little meaningfully to change the outcome.

At the same time, Lake relies heavily on her instincts, according to current and former aides, and may go in a different direction than what her team suggests. and those in the war room. GOP activists, including some who contacted Lake during her campaign, are threatening legal action and trying to get feedback from voters who say they were turned away at the polls.

Hobbs started the count with a considerable lead. Lake councilors had hoped that later party votes — pulled from Election Day ballots they thought it would be good for the lake—to catch up with him. But the results are not as favorable for her as expected. During his campaign, Lake criticized the state’s early voting system and encouraged people to vote in person or return their early ballots at the polls on Election Day.

Additional results from Maricopa County are expected to be released Monday evening. People in the GOP war room expect those results to give Hobbs an edge, but perhaps not enough to change the trajectory of the contest.

The subdued mood in the war room, where those gathered in recent days drank coffee and ate pizza and sandwiches, marks a reversal from days past. The day after the vote, Lake attended meetings about a possible move to the governor’s office — sifting through resumes and talking to business leaders and the GOP about spots on her team.

Now the mood in the large conference room, filled with televisions and scattered coffee mugs, has shifted from elation to a mix of anger and resignation that Hobbs may be on her way to the governorship in blue. after more than a decade of Republican control.

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Lake, members of her campaign team and her allies huddled at the hotel at various times in recent days, culminating in a phone call with the former president Sunday in an adjoining room near the conference room. Trump, who made Arizona the focus of his false claims of voter fraud in 2020, expressed disbelief that Republican candidates were losing, according to three people with knowledge of the call.

But Lake has been largely silent in recent days, even as Hobbs released a statement from her campaign manager on Sunday saying the Democrat is the “clear favorite to be Arizona’s next governor.”

Lake’s team did not respond to a request for comment on the claim, and the Republican nominee, who is usually busy on social media, did not tweet for more than 24 hours, breaking her silence at midday Monday with a reversed communication. “Arizona, I’m fighting for you,” she wrote on Twitter.

An adviser said Lake would likely appear on the Fox News show Monday night. “Everybody expects us to scream and we do the opposite,” the councilor said.

In addition to Lake’s closest advisers and some lawyers, other allies have moved in and out of the war room, according to people with knowledge of what’s going on there.

They include Rick Grenell, who served as Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, and Bob, who is a lawyer for Trump’s political action committee and was interviewed by the FBI for her involvement in the case stemming from Trump’s handling of sensitive documents that may have removed. to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s home and club in Florida.

Additional attendees include Bannon, a former White House chief strategist and far-right radio talk show host, and Tyler Bowyer, head of the US political division of Turning Point, a pro-Trump youth group.

Bowyer, through Turning Point’s PAC, sought to help Lake and several GOP candidates in the running for a seat in the state legislature. After problems at the polls were revealed Tuesday, Bowyer has threatened to launch recall campaigns against Bill Gates, the Republican chairman of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, which oversees election day operations and vote counting, and Stephen Richer, the Republican registrar in charge of early voting. .

“Talk to your neighbor about how incompetent Lil’ Bill is and help impeach the people responsible for this international embarrassment,” Bowyer tweeted Saturday.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Gates said he is focused on completing the 2022 election and governing Maricopa County. Richer declined to comment through an aide.

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Gates, Richer and other county leaders have repeatedly said that problems at the polls on Election Day did not prevent voters from casting their ballots or cause ballots to be misread. Voters were instructed to wait until the problems were fixed, go to different polling centers or place their votes in secure boxes that were transported downtown and counted there. But those familiar with the negotiations in the war room said the Election Day issues could be the subject of legal action.

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Mark Finham, the GOP nominee for secretary of state who was expected to lose on Friday, has also arrived at the Scottsdale resort where Republicans are gathering. He has refused to budge, tweeting conspiracy theories about George Soros, a Jewish financier and donor to Democratic causes, and Sam Bankman-Fried, a cryptocurrency investor and Democratic donor whose business empire has collapsed in recent days.

Finchem sent out a fundraising appeal to his supporters on Monday, saying: “This fight is not over. This race is not over. I need your help today to fight the fake news machine that spreads leftist propaganda in hopes that we will not notice!

Grenell, Bobb and Finchem did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

People familiar with the discussions said Bannon and Caroline Wren, Lake’s senior adviser and a veteran GOP fundraiser, were more forthcoming about the unfavorable numbers.

However, in a Monday morning monologue on his “War Room” radio show, Bannon lashed out at Maricopa County, describing Election Day failures as “an active disenfranchisement of Arizona on the world stage.” Later Monday, he said, “We have to stop the certification.”

Republicans had asked the judge to extend voting hours on Election Day of trouble, but a judge denied their request, finding that they could not prove that any voter was denied the opportunity to vote.

Lake and her allies have argued that the problems only affected Republican districts. But an analysis by The Post found that the share of registered Republicans in affected counties, about 37 percent, was nearly the same as the share of registered Republicans countywide, which is 35 percent.

Maricopa County officials have said they are working as many as 18 hours a day to tabulate a record number of ballots were cast on election day and that the process was always scheduled to take 12 days.

Stanley-Becker reported from Washington. Josh Dossey in Washington contributed to this report.


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