Pence endorses Arizona governor’s run, putting him at odds with Trump

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Former Vice President Mike Pence backs Arizona gubernatorial candidate Karrin Taylor Robson, a developer with a long history of Republican politics, over former President Donald Trump’s chosen nominee Kari Lake. a former TV presenter who continues to falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen.”

The endorsement illustrates the division within the party between Trump supporters who value loyalty to him above all else and those who want to stop endlessly pleading for the 2020 election, including those who are grateful that Pence and other Republicans have blocked Trump’s attempts to overturn the results. . Trump and Pence, who each plan to run for president in 2024, both plan to be in Arizona on Friday campaigning for their chosen candidates ahead of an Aug. 2 primary.

Pence called Taylor Robson “the top pick for Arizona’s future” in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “As Arizona Democrats pursue Biden-Harris’ reckless agenda, Karrin Taylor Robson is the only gubernatorial candidate who will keep Arizona’s borders and streets safe, empower parents, and create great schools, and will promote conservative values,” he said.

Taylor Robson praised Pence’s conservative credentials and said she wants to lead as he did.

“Modern politics is full of charlatans and fakes, but Vice President Pence is the real story,” she said in a statement to the Post. “He never wavered in his conservative beliefs and his commitment to our Constitution, and left a rock-solid legacy as a governor to which I will aspire.”

The endorsement comes two months after Pence and other prominent Republicans lined up behind Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R), whom Trump has targeted to certify the 2020 election. Kemp won in a landslide. But Arizona’s gubernatorial primary looks much tighter, raising the stakes for Pence. Friday’s split-screen campaign events will highlight Pence’s rifts with the former president, as he too defied pressure to reverse Trump’s 2020 defeat.

Taylor Robson also has the backing of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R), a longtime friend and ally of Pence, who co-chairs the Republican Governors Association and also drew Trump’s ire for upholding the latest election results .

Analysis: Republicans grow bolder to approve against Trump

Lake and Taylor Robson do not offer radically different views on issues such as water economy and conservation. Both want the state to take a tougher stance on border security, for example, and want to end Trump’s border wall. But they differ on the 2020 election.

Lake called the electoral system “rotten to the core” and claimed, without evidence, that thousands of fraudulent votes were cast in 2020: “I refuse to stop talking about it until our elected get up and do something. We want people arrested, prosecuted and thrown in jail.

In a TV show debate in June, Lake repeated the lie of widespread election fraud and said Joe Biden “lost the election and he shouldn’t be in the White House.” She said she would not have certified the Arizona election results.

During the debate, Taylor Robson, who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 and helped raise $1.3 million for his two presidential campaigns, agreed that the 2020 election “was absolutely not fair”. but wouldn’t say it was fraudulent.

She cited new voting rules and laws introduced by some jurisdictions amid the pandemic and the so-called suppression by big tech and the media of information harmful to Democrats.

“All of these things put together led 78% of Republicans in Arizona to believe that something was wrong with the election,” she said during the debate. “But I’m focused on 2022 because the left is 10 steps ahead of us and I don’t have time to explain what they are doing.”

Taylor Robson said she would accept the results of the gubernatorial election. Lake said at a recent campaign event that Taylor Robson’s rivals “could try to set the stage for another robbery.”

Emily Ryan, a conservative political consultant in Arizona, said the race for governor highlights a national struggle over GOP identity, with two leading candidates who share many of the same conservative positions on politics but represent different styles of governance. different.

“There’s a part of the Republican Party that’s not comfortable with the direction Trump has taken the party and this brand of politics and is trying to sort of regain some control,” Ryan said.

In a statement last week, a spokesperson for Lake denigrated Taylor Robson supporters as “Republicans in name only,” one of Trump’s favorite insults. “The RINO facility is lining up behind Karrin Taylor Robson,” spokesperson Ross Trumble wrote in an email.

An adviser to Pence said the former vice president would visit the border on Friday, joined by Taylor Robson and Brandon Judd, who is chairman of the National Border Patrol Council, and endorsed her. Pence will also travel to Phoenix, said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the approval more candidly.

Trump is due to appear at a rally in northern Arizona on the same day to campaign for Lake and a list of his preferred statewide candidates. He had originally planned to visit last weekend, but postponed until Friday after the death of his ex-wife, Ivana Trump.

The adviser said Pence viewed Taylor Robson as “the most conservative candidate in the race” and was considering an endorsement before Ducey announced his support on July 7. Pence and Ducey grew close during Ducey’s own run for governor in 2014, and Pence wants to help Ducey in his final year as governor and president of the RGA, people close to both men said.

A Pence adviser also noted Lake’s attacks on Pence last month after visiting the border in Arizona. Lake told Newsmax she doesn’t think Pence has a “snowball chance in Phoenix to win” if he runs for president in 2024 and said many people are “disappointed” in him for his shares on On January 6, 2021, when he helped certify the election after pro-Trump rioters attacked the US Capitol.

“I think that’s something that frustrated us as advisers, and it certainly refocused our attention on this race,” the Pence adviser said of Lake’s criticism.

Lake, a former Democrat in the early years of President Barack Obama’s first term, casts himself as the first American populist in the mold of Trump. She earned his endorsement about a year ago and has spent the intervening time building a passionate base energized by her embrace of baseless conspiracy theories and divisive culture war issues, including accusing drag queens of being dangerous to children and advocating putting cameras in classrooms to ensure teachers aren’t teaching critical race-theory curriculum.

Taylor Robson is campaigning as a more traditional, low-tax, less governmental Conservative focused on pro-business policies. She was well behind Lake in the polls for much of the race, but recently edged closer while spending Lake far, breaking statewide campaign spending records.

With early voting already underway, Pence’s endorsement could help sway moderate Republicans and independent voters who have demanded GOP ballots, especially in remote Phoenix suburbs that have helped settle contests. tight in recent years. The former vice president has also long been popular with Christian conservatives. Republicans Scott Neely and Paola Tulliani Zen are also vying for the Republican nomination.

Some see an endorsement from Pence as risky for Taylor Robson because it will highlight national undercurrents shaping the race.

“Do you really want to take on Trump or do you just want to keep telling your own story?” Chuck Coughlin, an Arizona political strategist whose firm works with Republican candidates, said amid reports that Pence could weigh in. “And my feeling is that an endorsement from Pence does more about Trump.”

But for Pence, Coughlin said, the Arizona governor’s race is an opportunity to send a message and possibly share a win.

“You’re thinking Iowa,” he said, referring to the state that traditionally kicks off presidential primary season. “You think about the next two years.”

With a possible campaign on the horizon, Pence was Republican candidates across the country and has a foundation, Advancing American Freedom, which champions conservative causes such as abortion restrictions. Pence’s Advancing American Freedom Foundation recently made a six-figure contribution to an ad campaign by anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which will support state-level anti-abortion legislation, the adviser says. of Pence.

Pence’s tightrope on January 6: Fulfilling his role while wooing Trump voters

Pence’s endorsement of Taylor Robson marks his highest-profile endorsement since campaigning in Georgia with Kemp, who easily defeated Trump’s hand-picked challenger, former Sen. David Perdue. Pence called the race a referendum on the GOP leadership.

“When you say yes to Governor Brian Kemp tomorrow, you will send a deafening message across America that the Republican Party is the party of the future,” he told an Atlanta-area crowd on the eve. of the primary. The country’s Republican governors, including Ducey, had rallied to protect the incumbents of Trump-endorsed main challengers amid what one ex-governor called a “personal vendetta tour.”

Trump’s gubernatorial picks in Idaho and Nebraska have also suffered defeats this year. But the former president’s endorsement remains coveted in the GOP primaries and has given a significant boost to House and Senate candidates.

Both Pence and Trump have also endorsed Sarah Sanders, the former White House press secretary, for the governorship of Arkansas. And last month, Pence announced his support for Rep. Lee Zeldin (RN.Y.), a New York gubernatorial candidate who won his primary and also received support from the New York GOP. Trump remained neutral in the New York primary, which included several allies of the former president, including Rudy Giuliani’s son Andrew Giuliani.

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