Kari Lake bills herself as the next best thing to Donald Trump. MAGA voters disagree.

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Kari Lake speaks as former President Trump looks on at a rally in Florence, Arizona in January 2022. Photo by Gage Skidmore (modified) | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

We have more than five months until the election, but it sure looks like the writing is on the wall for Kari Lake’s bid to become a U.S. senator

There were already clear signs that national Republicans took such a dim view of her chances of winning in November that they weren’t willing to help bankroll her campaign. Now, new polling shows that GOP voters aren’t lining up to support her either.

The most important findings in a CBS News/YouGov poll released this week weren’t that Lake is trailing U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, her likely Democratic opponent, by a whopping 13 points. Instead, what really matters is why she’s consistently trailing a progressive Democrat in a state where Republicans still have built-in electoral advantages, even as it becomes increasingly purple.

And understanding that explains why national Republicans won’t go out of their way to save her.


Lake has modeled her political persona on Donald Trump, and makes no bones about her belief that she is the “most Trump-like” politician anywhere. 

The conventional wisdom is that Lake will struggle to win over moderate Republicans and right-of-center independents — the same blocs of voters that Trump lost in 2020, and that he must win over this year if he hopes to return to the White House. And it makes sense to assume that Gallego is leading in the polls because he’s capturing the support of those voters.

But that’s not her biggest problem. What the CBS/YouGov poll laid bare is that she’s driving away GOP and conservative voters, something clearly on display when you compare her numbers against Trump’s.

Those numbers are brutal for Lake. Among GOP voters? Trump has the backing of 93%, but just 73% would vote for Lake. It’s the same among self-identified conservative voters: 91% would cast a ballot for Trump, just 75% would do so for the former TV newscaster.

In every demographic group, Lake badly trails her idol and the man who will be at the top of the ticket: Men (a 17-point gap), women (17 points), Generation X (15 points), Baby Boomers (14 points), moderate voters (24 points), white voters (16 points), Latino voters (17 points), white voters without college education (16 points), white voters with a college degree (17 points).

Kari Lake needs to turn things around in the next 60 days or the race is over.

– Veteran GOP campaign consultant Chris Baker

There isn’t an inch of daylight between Lake and Trump on policy matters, so the gulf between them in the polling signals a major failure for Lake to connect with the voters who should be on her side no matter what. 

And she’s running out of time to do that. Already, Gallego is blanketing the airwaves with ads (and has been for weeks) that define himself for voters, many of whom aren’t familiar with him — unlike Lake, who is fresh off a high-profile loss in a governor’s race that most everyone thinks she should have won and a string of lawsuits based on conspiracy theories aiming to overturn that loss.

“She needs to turn things around in the next 60 days or the race is over,” GOP political consultant Chris Baker said. “I, personally, think she’s toast. You don’t come back from numbers like that.”

Since even before she got in the Senate race, there have been whispers about how national Republicans see Lake as a liability. In recent months, those whispers have grown louder and spilled into the open, like in the Politico story earlier this month that says Republicans fear she could “sabotage” their chances at winning the Senate majority. 

But it’s the silence that is most damning. Silence from the deep-pocketed outside groups who are committed to helping Republicans capture control of the Senate. 

The true test of GOP faith in Lake and belief that she can win isn’t in meaningless endorsements from other politicians — honestly, is there a single Arizona voter who cares that John Barrasso supports Lake? — but in cold, hard cash pumped into a race by outside groups.

While it’s undeniably important for candidates to raise their own campaign war chests, in modern politics, spending by outside groups — which can raise unlimited sums with no contribution limits — is the truest bellwether of a candidate’s chances.

It’s even more important for Lake, who is already falling far behind Gallego in raising money. 

And those wealthy GOP groups aren’t doing much of anything to help Lake. But they are throwing money at other Senate races. 

Last week, One Nation, a top conservative nonprofit, announced it would spend $70 million more — for a total so far of $88 million — into hitting vulnerable Democrats in key Senate races. That money is going to Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Not a single dime is going to help Lake.

And the Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC led by top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, left Arizona off the list of where the group is reserving $88 million in TV ad time. 

That would be bad enough, but it’s even worse for Lake when you realize that Democratic groups are spending hand over fist to boost Gallego. Senate Majority PAC, the committee run by Senate Dem leaders, has already dumped $23 million into Arizona

Sure, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has voiced its support for Lake, and they’re in the midst of a multi-million-dollar coordinated ad campaign. But the NRSC last month clawed back $102,000 from the Arizona Republican Party, well more than half of the $180,000 or so it’s sent the AZGOP since last year. 

Money talks in politics, and it’s saying something explicitly clear about how national Republicans view Kari Lake’s chances to win in November.

They don’t think she has a chance.


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