We spend a lot of time discussing the 2024 presidential election because it’s the biggest circus in town. As an Arizona resident, I may have front row seats to the biggest side show next year: the race for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s seat.
This could be a three-way race between Sinema, Rep. Ruben Gallego, and the Republican girlfriend who is still hanging around long after the party is over — Kari Lake.
This is a bit of a mea culpa column for me, as I was a big fan of Lake’s last year. When I look at her now, I can hardly see her for all of the red flags she’s covered in. Honestly, I can’t remember ever souring on a politician this quickly after having been such a strong supporter. That’s obviously because I read everything wrong last year. I take full responsibility for having gotten caught up in the moment when I was way past being old enough to know better.
I know that disparaging Lake in any way is going to irritate the Trump fans, because she’s one of his biggest sycophants. In fact, she’d be absolutely nowhere without him. Given his endorsement record in the races that counted last year, I’m not exactly thrilled that she’s probably going to win the GOP primary.
What I liked about Lake last year was that her years of experience in the media gave her the skills to handle them well. That was all I needed. I never bothered to look into her political past. She was a Republican. Then she was an Independent. Then she was a Democrat at the beginning of the Obama years. Then she was a Republican again.
That’s a red flag quilt.
When I wrote about Lake’s entrance into the Senate race at the beginning of the month, I outlined a couple of my misgivings with her, especially this one:
Lake will need to win back the Republicans in Arizona who she essentially gave the finger to just days before the election last year. At a rally, she asked the McCain Republicans in attendance to identify themselves, then told them to “get the hell out.” It was a monumentally stupid move. Like it or not, there are still a LOT of McCain supporters in Arizona, especially among older Republicans.
Oh, there are a lot of older Republicans here too.
The Republican party has a peculiar knack for finding candidates who seem politically solid but will then say the worst possible thing at the worst possible time. Kari Lake didn’t reveal that trait until mere days before the midterms last year. Yeah, I’m suspicious about what went on with the tabulation machines in Maricopa County last year, but I’m fairly certain that telling off the McCain voters had a much bigger impact on that election.
I’ll give you just one guess which Arizona county you have the greatest chance of finding a lot of McCain Republicans in.
Lake has done nothing since last November to remedy that, which means she either doesn’t care or doesn’t put much forethought into her decisions to run for office.
There’s also the fact that, given her energetic party switches between 2006 and 2012, I’m not even sure that she meets any of the “politically solid” criteria. It’s easy for an aspiring politician to toe the party line when running for office. We’re all aware, however, that politicians often struggle with follow-through.
While Lake may be a favorite of the MAGA faithful, they might want to temper their enthusiasm for her. I honestly think that she would be a drag on Trump if they are both on the ticket here next year. I know that the people who are already all-in on Trump won’t be swayed by anything Lake does. She could become an albatross for him with the more moderate Republicans and independent voters he desperately needs to have to win in this increasingly purple state, if she isn’t one already thanks to what she said last year.
Lake may surprise a lot of people and find a way to win next year. At the rate Joe Biden is going, he may have moderate Democrats voting for conservatives next year. One thing is certain: if Sinema does run, the national Democratic party is going to throw all of the money and manpower it can find behind Gallego.
If it is a three-way race, Kari Lake is going to be up against not two, but three formidable opponents: Ruben Gallego, Kyrsten Sinema, and herself.