By David Leibowitz
You work close up to elections for 30 years, you have the chance to learn some things about candidates and campaigns. The most important one is this: Many people vote with their gut, not their head.
In the end, that’s what did in one of the most arrogant candidates ever to grace an Arizona ballot, Republican governor hopeful Kari Lake.
Before her midlife conversion to politics, Lake spent two decades as a news anchor, a job whose main qualification is the ability to read aloud text prepared at a low high school level. This translated into high name identification, which Lake translated as ardor for her as a human being.
On the campaign trail, she spoke about “being in your living room” for decades, about how we knew her so well, about how much she loved Arizona and how much Arizona loved her back.
All I can say is, it looks like she got that half right.
In the end, it was Lake’s seething hatred that sunk her campaign — moments like the Thursday before the election when, standing before a roomful of Republicans, she again attacked the late Sen. John McCain, a politician whose skill as an Arizona campaigner she could never touch.
“We don’t have any McCain Republicans in here, do we?” Lake demanded. “All right, get the hell out,” she ordered. Then she added: “Boy, Arizona has delivered some losers, haven’t they?”
I guess we have, Kari. Except John McCain never lost an election in this state, and you’re zero for a lifetime.
In the days before the election, a conservative consultant told me Lake could be the perfect vice president for Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential run — Robin to Trump’s red, white and blue Batman.
In retrospect, I get the enthusiasm: Lake is smooth with a microphone in her hand, polished delivering Trump’s talking points.
Put her in a crowd of 100 people and 35 will gobble up her act. Meanwhile, another 35 will revile her.
The last 30 — the ones caught in between — will end up trusting our guts. And most of them will end up saying, “Boy, that Lake is really nasty.”
If the candidate herself read this column, she’d surely insult me right back, the way she told reporters, “I’m going to be your worst fricking nightmare for eight years,” or her closing night spiel to voters, where she crowed at the media, “The bastards back there don’t want us talking about stolen elections. Well, it doesn’t matter what they attempt tomorrow, because we’re going to show up like our lives depend on it.”
Republicans did show up by the hundreds of thousands statewide in this election.
The GOP took six of nine Congressional races, and the party built majorities in both houses of the state Legislature.
But atop the ticket, the Trump-endorsed statewide candidates mostly got beaten — Lake, Blake Masters and total wingnut Mark Finchem.
As I write this, the attorney general race remains too close to call with only about 700 votes separating Abe Hamadeh and the Dem, Kris Mayes.
The shining star for the GOP this cycle in Arizona? It was incumbent Treasurer Kimberly Yee, who easily won a second term by notching the most votes of any Arizona candidate in a competitive race.
Notably, Yee was not endorsed by Trump. She campaigned without an incessant focus on the 2020 election and Trump’s grievances. And Yee accepted her victory with grace, thanking Democrat Martín Quezada “for running a professional campaign.”
Lake, locked in her “war room,” where the toadies were reportedly beginning to flee, responded by tweet to news reports of her loss. “Arizonans,” she wrote, “know BS when they see it.”
Yes, we did, Kari. Yes, we certainly did.