How Democrats 'played with fire' in Arizona — and may be getting burned: report

How Democrats 'played with fire' in Arizona — and may be getting burned: report
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In his July 22 column, conservative Daily Beast opinion columnist Matt Lewis had a stern warning for Democratic strategists who were promoting far-right MAGA extremists in GOP primaries: You’re “playing with fire” and stand a chance of getting burned, as some of those extremists may surprise you by winning the general election. And in Arizona, the Beast’s Sam Brodey reports in an article published on November 2, one of those far-right candidates — Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake — has a good shot at pulling off a victory over her Democratic rival, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

The far-right gubernatorial candidates who Democratic strategists and organizers promoted in GOP gubernatorial primaries included not only Lake, but also, Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano and Maryland’s Dan Cox. They believed that Lake, Mastriano and Cox would be easier to defeat in the general election if they won their party’s nominations, which all of them did.

Lewis, a Never Trump conservative, is no fan of Lake, Mastriano or Cox. He agrees that all of them are dangerous extremists, and he is a scathing critic of the MAGA movement. But in his July 22 column, Lewis warned that Democrats would deeply regret it if they promoted any extremists who were victorious in the general election — and now, Lake is outperforming the expectations that Democrats had when they interfered in Arizona’s GOP gubernatorial primary earlier this year.

READ MORE: 'Are they out of their minds?’: Former Reagan staffer slams WSJ for overlooking Kari Lake’s 'extremism'

Brodey reports, “Not long ago, many in Arizona wondered how Kari Lake — the far-right, Trump-loving, media-bashing former local TV news anchor — could possibly win a campaign for governor in a swing state. Now, many are wondering how Lake could possibly lose.”

Some polls released in early November are showing Lake with narrow leads over Hobbs, including 1 percent (Fox News) and 2 percent (Univision). A New York Times/Siena poll released on November 1 found Lake and Hobbs tied.

“During a heated primary race,” Brodey explains, “Lake’s GOP rivals tagged her as toxic and unelectable. Many Democrats hoped she’d be the GOP nominee, believing she was a sure bet to collapse under the bright lights of a general election campaign. In the last three months, however, something else has happened. Lake quickly consolidated Republican support, and her boisterous, Trump-style rallies have served as a show of the GOP faithful’s remarkably high level of enthusiasm for her gubernatorial bid.”

Brodey continues, “In the process, Lake has overshadowed the cautious campaign of her Democratic rival, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is an experienced public official but a low-key campaign presence. As she struggles to match among Democrats the intensity that Lake sparks among Republicans, Hobbs has focused on policy roundtables and emphasizing issues like abortion access to turn out her base and reach independent voters.”

READ MORE: 'This is who they are': Critics blast Kari Lake for mocking Paul Pelosi after violent assault

Between Lake, Mastriano and Cox, Lake is, hands down, the Republican gubernatorial nominee who Democrats are the most worried about at this point. Many polls released in late October found Mastriano trailing his Democratic rival, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, by either double digits or the high single digits.

Shapiro has been relentlessly attacking Mastriano as a dangerous, unhinged, anti-democracy extremist, which is also a line of attack that Hobbs has used against Lake in Arizona. The difference is that Shapiro has been running a very energetic and aggressive campaign, while some Democratic strategists have been privately complaining that Hobbs is running a lackluster campaign. And they have criticized Hobbs for refusing to debate Lake, which they view as a bad move.

One of the frustrated Democrats the Beast interviewed was Steven Martin, a voter in the Scottsdale area. Martin told the Beast, “Kari Lake comes across as someone who wants something. Katie Hobbs comes across as someone who wants to be left alone.”

Brodey reports, “One Democratic operative from Arizona, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said a Hobbs win is still possible, but predicted that Democrats’ ceiling on November 8 might consist of Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) winning reelection and Adrian Fontes defeating the 2020 truther Mark Finchem in the contest for secretary of state.”

Hobbs disagrees with Democrats who are saying that she is running a lackluster campaign, but the gubernatorial nominee acknowledges that it’s a close race.

Hobbs told the Beast, “Kari Lake’s running the campaign she’s running, we’re running the campaign we’re running — and we’re focused on talking to those undecided voters and making sure that we’re getting the voters out that we need to vote for us in this election. I don't see that we're losing ground. Every single poll has been statistically tied in the margin of error, and I trust the data we're seeing in our polling. And I feel really good about our path to victory in this race.”

Arizona has had plenty of conservative Republican governors over the years, from Jan Brewer to the term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey. But Lake is way to the right of them, promoting the false conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

Never Trump conservative Tim Miller, in an article published by The Bulwark on October 24, slammed Lake as an authoritarian threat to democracy but criticized Lake for running a weak campaign. Democrats may be heeding that warning from Miller, a frequent guest on liberal-leaning MSNBC — as they are sending one of their biggest rock stars, former President Barack Obama, to Arizona to campaign for Hobbs.

Brodey notes, “Democrats continue to invest money and organizing firepower in the race, and on Wednesday, (November 2), they’ll get a boost: former President Barack Obama is headlining a Phoenix rally for both Hobbs and Kelly. He’s expected to lob some of the sharp criticisms he’s taken to Republicans running elsewhere in this election season. How Arizona voters decide in this race will have enormous consequences: a Lake victory would portend conspiracy-fueled overhauls of the state election system, a curtailing of abortion access, and a steady stream of combative stunts like threatening to arrest certain federal officials upon arrival in Arizona.”

READ MORE: Democrats are blowing it in a race that has life-or-death implications for democracy: conservative

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