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

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PHOENIX – Kari Lake, facing a potential loss in Arizona’s governor’s race, is being advised by GOP operatives and some of her closest aides to take a measured approach. Should she come up short in the vote count and not “storm the castle,” as one person present for the debate described the sentiment.

Lawyers, political operatives and others around the Republican nominee worked from a “war room” inside a Scottsdale resort over the weekend to anticipate a stinging loss for Democrat Katie Hobbs, according to people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share private details. had talked

Lake has been one of the nation’s most outspoken promoters of false claims that former President Donald Trump was cheated out of victory in the 2020 election. Voters rejected electorally-rejected candidates in key battleground states nationwide this year, and many of those candidates have responded by doing what Trump won’t: conceding defeat.

With about 160,000 votes still to be counted, Lake trailed Hobbs by 26,000 votes on Monday. Recent highs are not so favorable for Republicans as Lake will need to close the gap. She might as well be Slipping outside the range will trigger a recount, which occurs when no more than 0.5 percent of the vote separates the candidates.

Some campaign aides and Republican operatives, looking at internal data, have become increasingly skeptical over the past three days that Lake has a path to victory. To remain viable, they said, she may need to claim as much as 65 percent of the next batch of votes in her home of Phoenix and Maricopa County. More than half of the state’s electorate, while the home of Tucson, also overperforms in Pima County.

Trump urged his supporters to march on the US Capitol after his defeat, and the question of how Lake will respond to the defeat lingers as one of the biggest unanswered questions of the 2022 election. The candidate has been reticent in his public statements since election day. She has sharply criticized Maricopa County for voting machine malfunctions and implied a fraudulent, partisan motive, even urging patience while the votes are counted.

Inside Lake’s war room, where the mood has shifted from bleak anticipation to solemn resignation over the past week, discussions have centered on how Lake should speak about the loss. Among those who have attended are some of the biggest 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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The debate is about how Lake can accept the loss should she adopt Trump’s playbook and claim the election was stolen from her. Some wanted her message to focus on problems with printers on Election Day that affected 30 percent of polling places.

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

People around the pond have told her that it would not be in her best interest to claim the election was stolen. They also warned of potential damage to Arizona and the country if the state becomes home to a resurgent “Stop Theft” movement. Others have warned against disrupting the ongoing count and determined that there is little the campaign can meaningfully do to change the outcome.

At the same time, according to current and former aides, Lake often relies on his own instincts, and may go in a different direction than his team suggests. And those in the war room. GOP operatives, including some who were in contact with Lake during his campaign, are threatening lawsuits and seeking to collect testimonials from voters who claim to have returned to the polls.

Hobbs opened the count with a significant lead. Lake consultants hoped that the next batch of votes — drawn from election day ballots They thought it would be convenient for the lake — to catch her. But the results do not break heavily in its favor as expected. Lake criticized the state’s early voting system throughout his campaign, urging 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 posted late Monday. Those in the GOP war room expect those results to cut into Hobbs’ lead, but probably not enough to change the course of the contest.

The quiet mood in the war room, where those gathered in recent days have eaten coffee and pizza and sandwiches, marked a contrast to earlier days. The day after the polls closed, Lake was holed up in meetings about a possible transition to the governor’s office — examining resumes and talking to business leaders and GOP hands about spots on his team.

Now, the mood inside the large conference room filled with televisions and spilled coffee cups has changed from excitement to a mixture of anger and resignation that Hobbs may be on his way to blue-flipping the governorship. After more than a decade of Republican control.

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Lake, members of his campaign team and his allies huddled at the hotel at various times in recent days, culminating in a phone call with the former president in an adjacent room near the conference space on Sunday. Trump, who has made Arizona the focus 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 largely gone quiet in recent days, even as Hobbs released a statement from his campaign manager on Sunday that the Democrat was “the clear favorite to be Arizona’s next governor.”

Lake’s team did not respond to a request for comment about that claim, and the Republican nominee — normally busy on social media — did not tweet for more than 24 hours, breaking her silence with a clipped communication midday Monday. “Arizona, I’m fighting for you,” she posted on Twitter.

An adviser said Lake would likely appear on the Fox News show Monday evening. “Everybody expects us to scream, and we’re doing the opposite,” the adviser said.

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

They include Rick Grenell, who served as Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, and Bob, who serves as a lawyer for Trump’s political action committee and their involvement by the FBI in a case stemming from the handling of sensitive documents allegedly taken by Trump. has been visited. Trump’s home and club at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Additional people in attendance included Bannon, a former White House chief strategist and host of a far-right radio show, and Tyler Boyer, chief executive officer of the political arm of the pro-Trump youth group Turning Point USA.

Boyer directed efforts by Turning Point’s PAC to help Lake and a slate of GOP candidates who appear on track to win seats in the state legislature. After problems were discovered at polling places on Tuesday, Bowyer threatened to launch a recall campaign against Bill Gates, the Republican chairman of Maricopa’s Board of Supervisors, who oversees election day operations and vote counting, and Stephen Richer, the Republican recorder responsible for early voting. .

“Talk to your neighbor about how incompetent Lil Bill is and help remember those responsible for this international shame,” Bowyer wrote on Twitter Saturday.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Gates said he is focusing on running for the 2022 election and running Maricopa County. Rich, through an aide, declined to comment.

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

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Mark Fincham, the GOP candidate for secretary of state who was projected to lose on Friday, also stopped by the Scottsdale resort where Republicans are huddling. He has refused to accept conspiracy theories by tweeting about George Soros, a Jewish financier and donor to Democratic causes, and Sam Bankman-Fried, a cryptocurrency investor and Democratic donor whose business empire has collapsed in recent days.

Fincham sent out a fundraising appeal to his 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 leftist propaganda hoping we don’t pay attention!”

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

Bannon and Carolyn Vann, Lake’s senior adviser and veteran GOP fundraiser, were clear about the unfavorable numbers, people familiar with the discussions said.

Still, in a Monday morning monologue on his “War Room” radio show, Bannon railed against Maricopa County, describing Election Day mistakes as “active disenfranchisement of voters in Arizona on the world stage.” Later on Monday, he said, “We have to close the certificate.”

Republicans asked a judge to extend voting hours on Election Day as a result about the problems, but the judge denied his request, because he was unable to show that any voter was denied the ability to vote.

Lake and his colleagues have argued that the problems only affect Republican precincts. But an analysis by The Post found that the proportion of registered Republicans in the affected areas, about 37 percent, was virtually the same as the share of registered Republicans countywide, at 35 percent.

Maricopa County officials have said they are working up to 18 hours a day to tabulate A record number of ballots were cast on election day and the process was always expected to take up to 12 days.

Stanley-Baker reported from Washington. Josh Dossey in Washington contributed to this report.

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