By Ronald Sampson
It’s the time honored trope in politics: you move out to the wing for the primary election, and pivot towards the middle for the general election. However, the danger is in going too far to one side to win a primary, only to make yourself unpalatable to general election voters as a result. This is the delicate balance that Kari Lake now finds herself encountering.
Thus far, she has embraced the hard-right approach, but with a grace that Kelli Ward completely lacks. Touting her Trump endorsement is a given, although her recent touting of an endorsement by pillow guy and noted conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, as well as disgraced former NSA head Michael Flynn are questionable at best. However, the real test of that balance came last week at an “election integrity” and “medical freedom” (i.e. anti-vax and anti-mask) rally put on by the fringe right-wing group the Patriot Party of Arizona
The group, whose founder was arrested for trespassing in a Chandler school just a few months ago, is no doubt dubious in tactics and intention. They do have some sway with the reddest of Republicans however; they were able to nab Kelly Townsend as their keynote speaker for their rally after all. But the real issue was that they had asked candidates to sign a pledge to support them before speaking. Lake didn’t sign, saying that she hadn’t had a chance to read it beforehand, which led to heckling and booing from the audience. Yes, a completely reasonable assertion that she didn’t want to sign anything before reading it was met by boos.
Herein lies the danger of placating extremists on either side: it will push you towards unpalatable extremes. After all, anything you say or do while campaigning can and will be used against you in the court of voter opinion.
Even through her popularity and clear front-runner status, Lake has made a few questionable decisions which will give cannon fodder for her general election opponent (if she makes it that far). Touting endorsements from Lindell and Flynn are among them, as is even giving a fringe group the time of day when she doesn’t need them. Lake may be well served to avoid them going forward however; if you lie with pigs, you’ll get covered in feces, and that smell may not go away soon enough. Lake doesn’t need to out-flank everyone to their right, she just needs to stay in a reasonable lane and stay disciplined in this marathon.