Efforts by former President Donald Trump to establish a political beachhead in Arizona for a possible 2024 White House bid were less certain to succeed after the Republican he endorsed for governor reported a paltry $375,000 war chest.
Kari Lake raised just $1.5 million last year, and spent nearly as much, despite winning Trump’s coveted backing. Wealthy self-funding Republican Karrin Taylor Robson entered 2022 with a much bigger war chest, $3 million, and began advertising on TV this month. Even former Rep. Matt Salmon, who raised slightly less than Lake in 2021, finished the off-year with more money in the bank, $492,000, to spend on his gubernatorial primary campaign.
Lake, a well-known former television news anchor in Phoenix, remains a leading candidate for governor at the outset of the election year, said Kirk Adams, former chief of staff to outgoing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. “She’s tapped into an enthusiastic part of the base that we know will show up to vote,” he said. But Adams and other Republican operatives in Arizona cautioned against declaring the nomination over because Lake has Trump.
“The contours of the race won’t be set until April,” Adams said.
Trump’s endorsement provides Lake a crucial advantage.
In a statement Wednesday, a spokesman for the former president projected confidence that the Republican was on her way to being elected governor. “Kari Lake is a star who has not only earned the endorsement of President Donald J. Trump, but who has captured the energy and enthusiasm of the MAGA movement in Arizona,” Taylor Budowich said. “She continues to run a smart campaign and will be a strong and effective governor.”
But Trump’s endorsement is not everything and is not always able to compensate for other shortcomings.