Kari Lake is being advised that she will likely lose the Arizona governor’s race

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PHOENIX – With Kari Lake staring at a possible loss in the Arizona governor’s race, GOP operatives and some of her closest aides are advising a measured approach. Should he fail to count the votes and storm the castle, as one panelist described the sentiment?

Lawyers, politicians and others close to the Republican candidate worked from a “war room” at a Scottsdale resort over the weekend to prepare him for what they expect will be a crushing loss to Democrat Kathy Hobbs, according to people familiar with the discussions. who spoke on condition of anonymity to share private details.

Lake has been one of the country’s most outspoken advocates of former President Donald Trump’s denied claims that he was rigged to win the 2020 election. Voters rejected election-defying candidates in the nation’s key battleground states this year, and many of those candidates responded by doing what Trump wouldn’t: admit defeat.

With about 160,000 votes left to count, Lake trails Hobbs by 26,000 on Monday. Recent readings have not been favorable for the Republican, as Lake will have to close the gap. He might even be to go beyond the scope that could lead to a recount, which occurs when candidates are separated by no more than 0.5 percent of the vote.

Some campaign aides and Republican figures, looking at internal data, have increasingly doubted that Lake has a path to victory over the past three days. To stay viable, they say, he may need to win as much as 65 percent of the vote in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and Phoenix. More than half of the state’s voters, while also outnumbering Pima County, where Tucson is located.

Trump urged his supporters to march on the US Capitol after his defeat, and how Lake will respond to the defeat remains one of the biggest unanswered questions of the 2022 election. The candidate has been discreet in his public statements since the election day. He sharply criticized Maricopa County for malfunctioning voting machines and hinted at an underhanded, partisan motive, while urging patience as the votes are counted.

In Lake’s war room, where the mood has shifted from wistful anticipation to grim resignation over the past week, discussions have focused on how Lake should talk about the loss. Among those who have appeared are some of the most prominent names in Trump’s orbit, including Stephen K. Bannon and Christina Bobb, a former One America News anchor who helped review 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County after the 2020 election. Trump himself called on Sunday.

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Discussions ranged from how Lake could accept his loss to whether he should accept Trump’s pamphlet and claim the election was stolen from him. Some want his message to focus on problems with printers on Election Day, which affected 30 percent of polling places.

“No one is advocating that they attack the castle,” said one person familiar with the discussions, while multiple people said talks were fluid and that anger was expressed about the process on Election Day.

People around Lake told him it would not be in his best interest to claim the election was stolen. They also warned of the potential damage to Arizona and the country more broadly if the state became home to a resurgent Stop Theft movement. Others cautioned against disrupting the current count and decided there was little the campaign could do to change the outcome.

Lake, meanwhile, relies mostly on his own instincts, according to current and former assistants, and may go in a different direction than what his team suggests. and those in the war room. GOP activists, including some who communicated with Lake during his campaign, are threatening lawsuits and seeking to gather testimony from voters who claim they were turned away at the polls.

Hobbs started the count with a sizable lead. Lake consultants hoped for later batches of votes — taken from election day ballots they thought it would be favorable for Lake to catch him. But the results are not breaking in his favor as much as expected. Lake criticized the state’s early voting system during his campaign and urged people to vote in person on Election Day or drop off their early ballots at the polls.

Additional results from Maricopa County were expected to be released later Monday. People in the GOP war room expect those results to cut into Hobbs’ lead, but probably not enough to change the trajectory of the contest.

The subdued mood in the war room, where those gathered in recent days have been drinking coffee and eating pizza and sandwiches, marks a reversal from previous days. The day after the vote closed, Lake was stuck in meetings about a possible run for governor, poring over resumes and talking to business leaders and the GOP about his team’s seats.

Now, inside the large conference room filled with televisions and coffee mugs, the mood has shifted from elation to a mix of anger and resignation that Hobbs could be on his way to turning the governor’s office blue. after more than a decade of Republican control.

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Lake, members of his campaign team and allies have gathered at the hotel at various times in recent days, culminating in a phone call with the former president on Sunday in a side room near the convention center. Trump, who has made Arizona the centerpiece of his false claims of voter fraud in 2020, expressed disbelief that Republican candidates are losing, according to three people with knowledge of the call.

But Lake has been largely silent in recent days, even as Hobbs released a statement Sunday from his campaign manager saying the Democrat is “the clear favorite to be Arizona’s next governor.”

Lake’s team did not respond to a request for comment on the allegation, and the Republican nominee, usually busy on social media, went more than 24 hours without tweeting, breaking his silence Monday afternoon with a clipped communication. “Arizona, I’m fighting for you,” she tweeted.

The adviser said Lake is likely to appear on the Fox News show Monday night. “Everyone expects us to scream, but we do the opposite,” said the adviser.

In addition to Lake’s closest advisers and some lawyers, other allies have filtered out of the war room, according to people with knowledge of the activities there.

They include Rick Grenell, who was Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, and Bob, who serves as a lawyer for Trump’s political action committee and has been questioned by the FBI over his involvement in the sensitive documents Trump allegedly took. to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s home and club in Florida.

Additional people in attendance included Bannon, a former White House chief strategist and far-right radio host, and Tyler Bauer, chief operating officer of the political arm of the pro-Trump youth group Turn USA.

Bowyer directed efforts through Turning Point’s PAC to help Lake and a slate of GOP candidates on track to win seats in the state legislature. After finding problems at the polls on Tuesday, Bowyer threatened to launch recall campaigns against Bill Gates, the Republican chairman of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, which oversees Election Day and vote counting, and Stephen Richer, the Republican recorder in charge of early voting. .

“Go talk to your neighbor about how incompetent Lil Bill is and help remember the people responsible for this international embarrassment,” Bowyer tweeted Saturday.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Gates said he is focused on completing the 2022 election and governing Maricopa County. Reacher, through an aide, declined to comment.

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Gates, Richer and other county leaders have repeatedly said that problems at the polls on Election Day did not prevent voters from casting their ballots or cause ballots to be misread. Voters were instructed to wait until the issues were resolved, travel to different polling centers or place their ballots in secure boxes moved downtown and counted there. But those familiar with the conversations inside the war room said Election Day issues could become the subject of litigation.

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Republican Secretary of State candidate Mark Fincham, who was expected to lose on Friday, also stopped by the Scottsdale resort where Republicans gather. He has refused to budge, tweeting conspiracy theories from George Soros, a Jewish financier and Democratic donor, and Sam Bankman-Fried, a cryptocurrency investor and Democratic donor whose business empire has crumbled in recent days.

Fincham sent out a fundraising appeal to supporters on Monday, saying: “This fight is not over. This race is not over. I need your help today to fight the Fake News Machine that spreads left-wing propaganda hoping we don’t notice.”

Grenell, Bobb and Fincham did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

People familiar with the discussions said Bannon and Caroline Wren, Lake’s senior adviser and a veteran GOP fundraiser, were clear about the unfavorable numbers.

Still, during a Monday morning monologue on his “War Room” radio show, Bannon lashed out at Maricopa County, describing the Election Day glitches as “an active disenfranchisement of Arizona voters on the world stage.” He said later on Monday. “We have to stop the certification.”

Republicans had asked the judge to extend voting hours on Election Day problems, but the judge denied their request, finding that they failed to show that any voter was deprived of the opportunity to vote.

Lake and his allies argue that the problems are limited to Republican areas. But The Post’s analysis found that the share of registered Republicans in affected precincts, about 37 percent, is nearly the same as the share of registered Republicans districtwide, which is 35 percent.

Maricopa County officials said they work up to 18 hours a day to tabulate A record number of ballots were cast on Election Day, and that the process was always expected to take up to 12 days.

Stanley-Becker reported from Washington. Josh Dawsey in Washington contributed to this report.

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