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Kari Lake’s Election Denial Isn’t About 2022. It’s About 2024.

She’s running. (For VP.)
November 23, 2022
Kari Lake’s Election Denial Isn’t About 2022. It’s About 2024.
Kari Lake (L) speaks as former President Donald Trump looks on at a rally at the Canyon Moon Ranch festival grounds on January 15, 2022 in Florence, Arizona. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Cynics of the world, unite. Kari Lake will lead you.

Or at least she’ll be #2 on the ticket. That’s where her sights are set in the presidential sweepstakes: “Trump-Lake 2024” is the bumper sticker she’s printing in her mind.

The signs of Lake’s sub rosa vice-presidential campaign are clear. First, she took a few days to huddle with political advisers after her loss was clear and before she announced that she would go full election-denial. It seems likely that they were debating whether the midterms would be a death-knell for Trump’s future prospects.

Next thing we knew, Lake showed up at Mar-a-Lago. Which tells us what answer they came up with: Lake’s team calculated that Trump remains the most likely Republican nominee for 2024. Even—perhaps especially—if there are multiple challengers to his throne. Lake remembers how 2016 played out.

But even if Trump can’t win the nomination, it’s not a bad bet for Lake to think that election denial wouldn’t be a VP dealbreaker if DeSantis emerges as the nominee.

In any event, there Kari Lake was at Mar-a-Lago, popping up like the head of an Arizona desert prairie dog rising for a lookabout. She came glammed up to hug the former guy and then went full-bore election denier, refusing to concede and calling the whole nation’s elections “a circus, run by clowns.” She released a two-minute video falsely asserting that “tens of thousands” of Maricopa County citizens had been disenfranchised.

This claim—you will be shocked to learn—is false.

On November 19, a lawyer in the office of Arizona’s Republican Attorney General, Mark Brnovich, wrote to Maricopa County lawyer Thomas Liddy seeking a mountain of information. The deputy AG sought the ballot reports from every voting location in the county and explanations for every reported mishap in the voting process.

On November 20, Lake told the Daily Mail that the letter from Brnovich’s office vindicated her claims. Asserting broad voter disenfranchisement, she proclaimed, unequivocally, “I will be governor.”

We’ll see about that. On November 21, the New York Times reported reviewing all 45 of the accounts offered by voters in support of Lake’s claims of disenfranchisement. In only one of those claims did a voter say she’d been unable to vote. And, tellingly, that voter’s claim did not include her name.

Still, Lake has hinted that there will be litigation to challenge the results of the election. If so, it will go no better than Trump’s lawsuits fared in 2020. But Lake understands that while Trump’s lawsuits tanked as legal challenges, they succeeded as list-building and fundraising vehicles.

A state-wide recount has about the same prospect of making Lake the winner as a camel’s odds of squeezing through the eye of a needle. A 2019 study by the nonpartisan group Fair Vote found that in 30 recounts it studied, they shifted the outcome by an average of 0.024 percent. Lake is currently more than 17,000 votes behind the winner, Katie Hobbs. That’s 0.6 percent.

But as with Trump, all this noise from Lake isn’t really about overturning the election. It’s aimed at keeping Lake’s victimhood front and center with both Trump and his base, just as Trump’s election denial in 2020 was aimed at keeping his hold on the Republican party. Lake’s game is about getting herself on the 2024 ticket, one way or another, damage to democracy be damned.

Dennis Aftergut

Dennis Aftergut, a former assistant U.S. attorney and former Supreme Court advocate, is currently of counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy.