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Arizona governor's race turns to Hobbs vs. Lake

Arizona State Election Results
NPR

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Kari Lake proved this week that she has the backing of the largest share of Arizona Republicans who voted in the primary.
Now she has to figure out how to appeal to everyone else.
It starts with the 53 percent of party members who wanted one of the other four candidates on the ballot to be the GOP nominee for governor.
Senate President Karen Fann on Friday issued a call Friday for "unity,'' praising both Lake and Karrin Taylor Robson, her main foe, as "strong leaders'' who "ran respectable campaigns.'' She then launched into a full-throated endorsement of Lake.
But that call has yet to be answered.
"It is my hope that our Republican nominees are successful in November,'' Robson said in her concession statement. But there was no endorsement of Lake -- and no indication she will do anything to help her former foe.
"This part of my life's journey has come to an end,'' Robson said. "Now, I need time to be with my family and get back to my business.''
There even was a snub of sorts by Gov. Doug Ducey who Lake repeatedly insulted during the campaign by calling him "do-nothing Ducey.''
The Republican Governors Association did put out a statement congratulating Lake on her victory. Of note, though, is the quote came from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, the organization's vice chair, and not from Ducey who chairs the organization.
And even on Friday there was no response to inquiries made to Ducey's press aide.
But Republican strategist Stan Barnes told Capitol Media Services he thinks that the party faithful eventually will come around.
"The party's been through really bad fights in the past,'' said Barnes, a former state legislator. "I think the dust will settle.''
He said there's also something else: A desire to win.
"To be unifying, you don't have to have 100 percent love,'' Barnes said.
"You have to have voters see you represent a better picture than the other guy,'' he continued. "And I believe that will happen.''
Barnes said Lake has something else unrelated to her stance on issues.
"If you're with her at a rally, if you're with her in a living room, she is the most unifying and likable charismatic politician that I have seen in decades,'' he said.
It was that "super power,'' he said, that enabled Lake, vastly outspent by Robson and her political allies, to pull out a win.
And that, said pollster Mike Noble, could be Lake's path to victory.
"There's a big difference between Kari Lake's personality and Hobbs' personality,'' he said. "And that could be the X factor.''
What that means, Noble said, is that Hobbs' best bet is not to "get in the mud'' with Lake. And that, he said, could mean avoiding at all costs any face-to-face debate -- or even letting Lake set the political agenda.
"The biggest opportunity for Lake is for Katie Hobbs to mess up,'' Noble said.
Conversely, he said, to the extent Lake makes her campaign about the 2020 race she will end up meeting the same fate as Trump in Arizona: losing the votes of the more affluent Republicans who were the same people who supported Robson.
The strategy for Hobbs, said Noble, is to take a page from the playbook used by the state's two Democratic senators who portrayed themselves "right in the middle.''
GOP consultant Chuck Coughlin agreed that the model being used again this year by Kelly is the one for Hobbs to follow.
He noted the endorsement of Kelly by Mesa Mayor John Giles, complete with a commercial supporting the Democratic senator.
"They've got to do, 'Hey, we're problem solvers,' '' Coughlin said of Hobbs and her campaign.
"That's an appealing message to unaffiliated voters,'' he said. "That's an appealing message to the Republican base, or the Republican portion of Karrin Taylor Robson's crew.''
What that also means, Couglin said, is not getting wrapped up in the progressive message -- and not letting Lake put Hobbs on the defensive that she's a Joe Biden clone or a socialist or a supporter of an an open border.
"If they can just talk about solving problems, if they can embrace that message, that's where the narrative need to be to me in order to make themselves available to that portion of the electorate that wants to show up and wants progress,'' he said.
Fann, for her part, acknowledged that primaries are by their nature divisive, as candidates from each party stake out positions that can span the political spectrum. And that's what happened among Republicans.
"But when it's time to go on to the general (election), it's not so much about the person, it's about the issues,'' she said. And that, Fann said, often means asking voters if they are happier now than they were several years ago -- presumably meaning before Joe Biden took office.
That, she said, can play very well for Lake.
The question that remains, though, is can -- or will -- make the changes necessary to broaden her base beyond what has been a central theme of elections being rigged and that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 race in Arizona.
"She's a smart lady,'' said Fann. And the senate president said she believes that now, with the primary over, Lake is "going to surround herself with some good policy that will also help her navigate and guide through that.''
And Fann said Lake has one other asset that works in her favor. She said that Lake's background in the media means she has "her finger on the pulse on what people are thinking and the issues and everything else.''
"She's not somebody out of the blue,'' Fann said. "She's somebody that's been engaged in politics for a long time now.''
But Lake clearly still has at least one foot in the election conspiracy camp: an active lawsuit playing out in federal court seeking to bar Arizona from using machines to tabulate ballots.
In legal papers, Lake and Mark Finchem, now the Republican nominee for secretary of state, contend the machines are unreliable because they are subject to hacking. And they say the use of components in computers from other countries makes them vulnerable.
They also argue that the counting of votes is an inherently governmental function. But their attorney, Andrew Parker, says that using machine built and programmed by private companies means the state has effectively -- and illegally -- farmed out that obligation.
No date has been set for a hearing.
Polling so far is sparse.
A survey run by Beacon Research of 504 likely showed Hobbs the choice over Lake by a 49 percent to 40 percent margin. But that was conduced in early July, before Lake became the nominee.
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On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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