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Arizona Republicans Want a Do-over

Arizona Republicans are gluttons for punishment. They want a do-over of the 2020 election, yes, but also a do-over of running whackadoodle candidates and losing again. In 2022, far-right election-denying candidates ran for the Senate, governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. All of them lost. If just one of them had lost, it could be chalked up to "candidate quality," but four losses by well-funded candidates can't just be due to somebody making a gaffe once. There is probably a message there, but Arizona Republicans don't want to hear it. They would rather continue running the same playbook, most likely with the same results. Politico has a long article on Arizona Republicans and the triumph of ideology over sanity.

At a recent meeting of the state Party in a Phoenix megachurch, people debated about how to censure RINOs in the party who prioritized winning over fervor. One veteran suggested duct taping them to a tree in a dog park so dogs could pee on them. When the reporter asked the man later what the point was, he said it was "public humiliation." On stage, one of the RNC members from Arizona, Tyler Bowyer, said that Robert's Rules of Order would let them censure anyone anyway they wanted, but added "I don't know how much duct tape we have here." That kind of sets the tone.

Typical comments from attendees included: "Lake was robbed," "the election stinks," "throw out the election and run it again," and "Trump is the only one who can fix anything." No one claimed that the 2022 election for Arizona state treasurer, which was won by Republican Kimberly Yee in a landslide, was rigged, though. Only the ones Democrats won were rigged. Some people said the Party would have to die before it could be reborn.

Analyses of the vote in Maricopa County showed what actually happened. About 40,000 voters who favored Yee and other Republicans down ballot did not vote for election denier Kari Lake for governor. Some 33,000 of them voted for now-Gov. Katie Hobbs (D-AZ); the rest voted for someone else, but not Lake. Interviews have shown that even people who lean Republican were tired of her constant election denialism.

Watching what happened at a state convention can be a little misleading since the people who go there tend to be hardcore activists who care very much about who the state party chair is and what resolutions pass. Most voters are barely aware that there are state party organizations. But what is going on in Arizona is unique and possibly a harbinger of what might happen in other states. There the Republican primary electorate and the convention-going activists are merging and large numbers of ordinary Republican voters have drunk the Kool-Aid. They believe they don't have to change course as a result of losing because they don't believe they lost. They were just cheated out of a rightful win.

Political professionals saw the message of the midterms with uncommon clarity: General election voters are tired of rehashing the 2020 election. Arizona Republicans took away different message: Elections are totally corrupt and you can't trust them. Nevertheless, they are prepared to run the same experiment again in 2024 although running candidates in elections you don't trust is awkward. But given their hatred of all Democrats and their fervent conviction that their candidates actually won in 2020 and 2022, a new direction seems unlikely.

Specifically, if Kari Lake and Blake Masters run for the Senate in 2024, there will be some mild arguments among Republicans about which one is better, but one of them will probably win unless they split the vote evenly and a moderate like Karrin Taylor Tobson ekes out a narrow victory in the GOP primary. But Lake could conceivably be indicted for tweeting out voters' signatures, so that might become a problem for her. In any event, it seems that Arizona Republicans want candidates like Lake or Masters, and barring an unlucky three-way primary, they will probably get one. (V)

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