Kari Lake’s First Fumble and How She Can Recover

News & Politics

I have been very impressed by Arizona gubernatorial Kari Lake in recent weeks. Last month, she masterfully took a gotcha question from a reporter on abortion and turned it around into a scathing rebuke of her opponent, Democrat Katie Hobbs.

“Abortion is effectively banned in the state right now,” the reporter began. “Tell me, do you — is that something that you support?”

“I support saving as many lives as possible,” Lake replied. “And what I really want to know and I’ve been waiting — I tune into you guys all the time — I want to know where Katie Hobbs stands. But I never hear you guys ask for that.”

Earlier this month, she similarly destroyed a reporter who asked her if she thought Trump is dividing the country by saying he won the 2020 election.

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“How does that divide the country?” Lake asked. “Questioning an election where there are obviously problems is dividing the country? Since when can we not ask questions about our elections? As a journalist for many years—I was a journalist after 2016 and I distinctly remember many people just like you, asking a lot of questions about the 2016 election results and nobody tried to shut you up.”

So I have to admit that when Lake appeared on CNN Sunday, I expected her to do a better job when she was asked if she would accept the results of her election if she loses.

“I’m going to win the election, and I will accept that result,” Lake told CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union after being asked multiple times whether she would accept the outcome of the election.

“If you lose, will you accept that?” Bash asked.

“I’m going to win the election, and I will accept that result,” Lake replied. “Because the people of Arizona will never support and vote for a coward like Katie Hobbs who won’t show up on a debate stage. She’s single-handedly destroying a 20-year tradition of gubernatorial debates because of her cowardice.”

In a general sense, she handled herself well and managed to use her air time to get some good jabs in at her opponent, but her sidestepping the issue of accepting the results if she does lose irked me. While some would argue that Lake was projecting confidence, she actually managed to play right into the left’s hands. Her Democrat opponent, Katie Hobbs, appeared on the same program after Lake, during which she said that Lake’s refusal to commit to accepting the election results was “disqualifying.”

“This is somebody who will have a level of authority over our state’s elections, the ability to sign new legislation into law, the responsibility of certifying future elections. And she has not only, as you heard, refused to say if she will accept the results of this election, but also whether or not she would certify the 2024 presidential election if she’s governor,” Hobbs said.

Frankly, Lake should have known better than to respond that way. She attempted to justify her response by invoking Stacey Abrams. “Stacey Abrams never conceded. She still hasn’t. I don’t hear CNN calling her an election denier,” she said. “We have the right. It’s protected with our First Amendment to question our government and to question elections.”

The only problem is that Stacey Abrams refused to concede an election that she legitimately lost, and Republicans have been mocking her for doing so for four years now. It’s true that Democrats have a long history of denying elections that they’ve lost, but Republicans shouldn’t stoop to their level of being sore losers. Democrats have questioned the results of every presidential election they’ve lost since 2000, but Republicans didn’t question the results of the 2008 or 2012 elections when Obama won.

In 2020, however, we saw Democrat governors, using the pandemic as a pretext, unilaterally change election laws to expand mail-in voting, which is notorious for not being secure, and then there were widespread allegations of election irregularities and fraud. Republicans have demonstrated that, when elections are fair, we can lose with dignity. Democrats, on the other hand, have not.

So what should Lake have said instead? She should have pointed out that a forensic audit of the vote in Maricopa County, Ariz. uncovered widespread (and potentially results-changing) irregularities in the 2020 presidential election. Then she should have noted that the Arizona state legislature passed, and Gov. Doug Ducey signed, an election integrity bill in the Spring of 2021 and that, hopefully, that law will prove to be adequate in protecting the integrity of the vote so that all Arizona voters can feel confident that the results were legitimate, regardless of the results. Lake needed to use the opportunity to point out that Republicans concede elections when they lose fairly, but Democrats do not. Then she should say that if she loses her election fairly she’d have no problem conceding.

She’ll no doubt face further questioning on this issue, and it would be prudent of her to follow my advice. I get that projecting confidence is important, but she ceded the upper hand on this issue to her opponent. Lake has largely proven to be an effective communicator on the issues, but her comments on CNN on Sunday were a far cry from her typical spot-on responses.

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