Kari Lake is ostensibly running for a US Senate seat in Arizona, but the cross-country itinerary she’s mapped out to promote her campaign appears better suited for someone with national aspirations or a book to sell. Since announcing her campaign on October 10, the pro-Trump media star, who was defeated in the Arizona gubernatorial election last year, has logged a pair of visits to both Florida and Nevada and attended events in Texas and Colorado.
To some in Trumpworld, this is a curious strategy for a candidate running in a highly competitive state. “A lot of it looks and smells like the kind of stuff you’d do on the [presidential campaign] trail,” a Trump operative said, before downplaying the prospect of Donald Trump actually choosing Lake as his vice president. “Personally, I don’t see it,” they added. “But obviously, President Trump is a big fan, so you can’t count her out.”
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the Lake campaign denied that she is pursuing a spot on the Trump ticket. “[Lake] is not worried about who President Trump picks as his vice president, but she is certain it will be a great pick,” the spokesperson said. “She is focused on winning her Senate race in Arizona. And she looks forward to casting her vote in Arizona for President Trump and whoever he selects as VP.” The campaign went on to say that Lake “is dedicated to winning this race in Arizona,” noting that she has held dozens of meetings and attended various events in the state since launching her campaign.
In the aftermath of her loss to now Arizona governor Katie Hobbs last year, Lake engaged in the characteristically Trumpian maneuver of refusing to concede defeat, claiming the election was tainted by fraud and misconduct. Her various attempts to prove that argument in court have thus far ended in failure. Nevertheless, she has illegitimately claimed the title of Arizona’s “lawful governor.”
While the ex-president reportedly has his mind set on a female running mate and considers Lake a prime pick for the job, she would no doubt make for an unusual choice. Lake has no experience as an elected official and little national recognition to speak of, having spent the bulk of her professional life working as a local news anchor. It also doesn’t help that some in Trumpworld have been put off by Lake’s arriviste instincts. “The problem with Kari is she’s just got this real ‘look at me’ thing going on, and I just don’t think she’s earned it,” one person close to the Trump campaign told me. “Clearly she’s got aspirations beyond Arizona, right, but here’s where I am: Go out and win something…. You have to win something before you go off telling everyone you’re gonna be vice president.”
Still, Lake is highly telegenic and media-savvy, not to mention an election denier with an unimpeachable loyalty to Trump—qualities the former president values above all else when choosing the members of his inner circle. While appearing on Steve Bannon’s show this month, Lake described Trump as a “giant” and an “alpha male” who is “right on everything” and “truly one of the best dealmakers.” She proceeded to unleash on various Trump foes, including Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Iowa governor Kim Reynolds, whom she knocked for endorsing DeSantis in the Republican primary. “We don’t need to have a primary,” Lake said of the Republican Party. “We already have an incredible candidate in President Trump…We didn’t need to have this sideshow going on.”
Do those seem like the words of a surrogate for the Trump campaign or a Senate candidate focused on her own race? “She’s hedging her bets, absolutely,” the Trump operative told me when asked that question. “But it’s a smart move because if she loses, I think there’s no question Trump would have a job for her.”
As of now, the odds that Lake comes out of 2024 with a Senate seat appear slim. Her obsession with election denialism has significantly hurt her favorability marks among two key demographics in Arizona, according to Mike Noble, a nonpartisan pollster. “The vast majority of independents [and swing voters]”—the latter group making up about 16% of the electorate, the pollster said—“don’t believe the election was stolen,” Noble explained. The same is true among moderate Republicans, who Noble said account for about a third of the GOP electorate.
Meanwhile, the main fear among Democrats is that incumbent Kyrsten Sinema, a first-term senator who originally ran as a Democrat but registered as an independent last year, will vie for reelection, creating a three-way chaos scenario in which Lake might have an advantage. But a Noble Predictive Insights survey released Thursday found that Sinema would siphon off more votes from Lake than from Ruben Gallego, a Democratic congressman who is the favorite to win his party’s nomination in the race. “With Lake, it’s the definition of insanity—trying the same strategy and hoping for a different outcome,” Noble said, referencing her stubborn election denialism. “The polls have proven that it just doesn’t get you to the number of votes you need to ultimately win.”
But the issue dragging her down in Arizona is the same one propelling her odds of landing on the Republican presidential ticket next year. “I do believe she’s a legit contender for the VP slot because she is a rock star in the election-denialism world, and that’s what Donald Trump wants,” said Arizona Republican strategist Barrett Marson. “But she could also become the new Kayleigh McEnany and end up being the spokeswoman for the Trump campaign.”