The Kari Lake Effect

The former local news anchor is throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, but it’s a safe bet that something will.

Kari Lake leaves after speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
Kari Lake leaves after speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. (Alex Wong / Getty)

Kari Lake, who’s still trying to overturn her November election loss in Arizona, is one of four women Trump is considering for VP, according to a new report from Axios. Lake is flirting with another possibility too.

But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.

Seeing What Sticks

You might remember Kari Lake from the November midterms, when she lost the Arizona governor race to Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes and proceeded to cry foul for weeks (and weeks). Well, the former local news anchor is still at it—with an obvious eye toward the future.

To catch you up: After the Arizona election, Lake sued Hobbs (in her capacity as then-secretary of state) and Maricopa County officials to overturn the results, claiming that the election process was corrupt. (At the time, I wrote about the widespread problems at polling places in Maricopa County that helped fuel Lake’s false claims of malfeasance.) She lost the initial suit, and last month, she lost her appeal. Now Lake is waiting to hear whether the state supreme court will take up her case. We should know more in early April at the latest.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter. Lake’s battle to unseat Governor Hobbs will almost certainly be fruitless, given that there is no evidence to support her claims of fraud. But, just as she’d always intended, her lawsuits are keeping her on everybody’s radar. And like Trump, Lake has taken her election-fraud show on the road.

She’s reportedly been raising money for her legal bills and delivering paid speeches, and last month, she went to Iowa. There, she spent two days complaining about rigged elections, and laughed off but didn’t exactly reject a suggestion that she could be Trump’s running mate. Yesterday, Axios reported that Lake was among four women Trump is considering for his ticket, should he become the GOP’s nominee.

A few days ago, Lake was a featured speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where Republicans with national ambitions often take the stage. When Lake won CPAC’s straw poll for vice president, her team tweeted out a cheeky rejoinder: “We’re flattered, but unfortunately our legal team says the Constitution won’t allow for her to serve as Governor and VP at the same time.”

Meanwhile, Lake has also reportedly met with officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, fueling suspicion that she might make a run for Kyrsten Sinema’s seat as the senior senator from Arizona.

The woman clearly has national ambitions, as I wrote in my profile of Lake last year. At this point, it seems like she’s throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.

Lake is a plausible VP choice for Trump for one big reason: She has demonstrated unflagging loyalty to the former president. She kissed a painting of him. She vacuumed his carpet! But for Trump, there are also a few downsides to picking Lake. The first is that she’s comparatively young, attractive, and charismatic. By choosing her, Trump would run the risk of being completely outshone. He famously does not enjoy this. Plus, Lake, unlike Trump, has never won an election, and, fraud claims aside, Trump may be hesitant to associate himself with a Big Loser. Finally, even though Lake might bring in a few more women to Trump’s side, it’s not clear at all that she would help shore up his support among suburbanites more broadly, which is what Trump would really need as the 2024 nominee.

Politically, it would make more sense for Lake to make a go for the Senate in 2024. Of course she’ll wait for the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision on her lawsuit, “but the team is gearing up for a Senate race,” a Republican strategist familiar with the campaign’s plans told me. In a primary, “she (and other candidates) know she would start as a heavy favorite,” the strategist said. That’s probably true; Lake had more support from the GOP base than any other candidate in the Arizona Republican primary for governor last year, defeating the establishment pick by more than 40,000 votes.

She might have a good shot at winning, too, if the cards fall exactly right: If Sinema, an independent, decides to run for reelection, and Ruben Gallego runs as a Democrat, it would be a three-way race, likely benefiting the Republican candidate.

Alternatively, “a creative solution would be to not run and instead ‘bless’ someone as the nominee—like Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb,” the strategist said. That way, Lake could stay on the campaign trail as a surrogate for Trump and other MAGA candidates and leave open the chance for a VP tap, as well as the chance for a rematch with Governor Hobbs in a few years.

Despite the recent midterm failures of election deniers and Trump-endorsed candidates, Lake still has a few options. As I wrote in October, she’s politically agile in a way that other MAGA types aren’t. She’s polished and charismatic enough to make even the wildest conspiracy theories sound at least sort of plausible. She could represent the future of Trumpism—now that Trump himself has gotten a bit stale. Like I said last fall: Whatever happens, Kari Lake is here to stay.


Today’s News

  1. After an investigation prompted by the police shooting of Breonna Taylor, the U.S. Justice Department found that Louisville, Kentucky, police have engaged in a pattern of violating constitutional rights.
  2. California officials are warning residents of a powerful storm later this week. About 16 million people across Central and Northern California are under flood watches.
  3. In the budget he will release tomorrow, President Joe Biden is reportedly set to propose measures to reduce federal-budget deficits by $3 trillion over the next 10 years.


Explore all of our newsletters here.

Evening Read

An illustration of a boy with a cereal bowl sitting next to a carton of almond milk
The Atlantic. Source: Picture Post / Hulton Archive / Getty

Milk Has Lost All Meaning

By Yasmin Tayag

You overhear a lot of strange things in coffee shops, but an order for an “almond-based dairy-alternative cappuccino” is not one of them. Ditto a “soy-beverage macchiato” or an “oat-drink latte.” Vocalizing such a request elicited a confidence-hollowing glare from my barista when I recently attempted this stunt in a New York City café. To most people, plant-based milk is plant-based milk.

But though the American public has embraced this naming convention, the dairy industry has not. For more than a decade, companies have sought to convince the FDA that plant-based products shouldn’t be able to use the M-word. An early skirmish played out in 2008 over the name “soy milk,” which, the FDA acknowledged at the time, wasn’t exactly milk; a decade later, then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb pointed out that nut milk shouldn’t be called “milk” because “an almond doesn’t lactate.”

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic

Culture Break

A still of an Oscars acceptance speech
Joanne Imperio / The Atlantic. Sources: ABC / Oscars Press; Getty.

Read. These books can help us come to terms with death.

Watch. Get in the Oscars spirit by watching (or rewatching) some classic acceptance speeches online.

Play our daily crossword.


Last week, I toured the National Zoo’s new walk-through aviary, which was even more delightful than I’d hoped. Instead of exotic creatures with colorful plumage and long fantails, the revamped Bird House shows off the migratory birds of North America—the skinny-legged avocets, black-and-white buffleheads, indigo buntings, and lemon-colored palm warblers. The new ethos of the exhibit is to celebrate the extraordinary beauty of ordinary birds, and I think that’s lovely. Read my story about the new Bird House, which opens on March 13. Then go meet the birds for yourself.

— Elaine

Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.