Well, I’ve listened to secret audio of state GOP chairman Jeff DeWit’s clumsy attempt to, um, persuade Kari Lake to stay out of the U.S. Senate race, and a couple of things stood out.
- DeWit has no future as a bagman. None.
- Ditto for his future as state Republican Party chairman. (Update: DeWit resigned on Wednesday morning.)
- And Lake? She continues to impress as a genius when it comes to the fine art of the political setup.
Her scripted responses to DeWit’s bumbling attempt to keep her out of the race — conveniently recorded as apparently she wears a wire even to answer her front door — were nothing short of red, white and well-rehearsed.
As was her timing.
The tape of the 10-month-old conversation emerges just as MAGA forces are hoping to dethrone DeWit at the party’s annual meeting on Saturday.
Kari Lake said she was bribed last year
You will recall that Lake teased the story in March 2023, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference that someone had come to her doorstep a few days earlier and offered her a bribe to stay out of the Senate race.
“This person standing before me was sent at the request of some powerful people back East,” she said at the time. “They want me out of politics.”
For nearly a year, Lake has remained silent about who came a knockin’. Now, suddenly, she’s outed DeWit as the nitwit who thought he could sideline MAGA’s reigning queen.
DeWit didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Jeff DeWit had to walk a tightrope
The former state treasurer and Trump appointee was elected party chairman in January 2023, replacing the one-woman-disaster-area that was Kelli Ward. The party was coming off a bruising 2022 election season in which Lake and her fellow MAGA Republicans lost every statewide race.
DeWit’s job was to walk a tightrope, placating the MAGA wing of the party while trying to reclaim the moderate Republicans and independents who are key to winning elections.
Which brings us to March 2023, when the purported Lake-DeWit meeting took place.
“There are very powerful people that want to keep you out,” DeWit tells Lake, in the audio clip slipped to the Daily Mail. “But they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is in a big way. So this conversation never happened.”
Clearly, the beleaguered party chairman had no idea that Lake was wired for sound. Either that, or he learned his craft from binge watching “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Lake plays DeWit well in the recording
Lake is, of course, suitably indignant even as she plays the party chairman like a well-tuned fiddle, asking him what he had in mind.
Cue DeWit: “So the ask I got today from back East was, is there any companies out there or something that could put her on the payroll and keep her out?” he replied.
Lake didn’t pause even for a beat.
Trump dashes Lake’s hopes:Of becoming his VP
“This is about defeating Trump and I think that’s a bad, bad thing for our country,” she said. “DeSantis is not America First. This is about the final death blow to Trump and I don’t think that’s good for our country.”
DeWit tries to explain that it’s not about Trump, but about her.
“I’m not even sure Trump can win again,” he says. “I don’t know that he can win. I think what it comes down to for a lot of people it’s not about control or the agenda. It’s about the ability to raise money to win.”
It’s a terrible look for the GOP chairman
Regardless of what it’s about, it’s a terrible look for the state Republican Party chairman to show up on the doorstep of the darling of the party and offer her money or position or power to stay out of a political race.
I’m sure it happens all the time. It’s just that most people aren’t dumb enough to get themselves caught on tape offering bribes.
Yet here is DeWit: “Just say, is there a number at which …”
Lake: “I can be bought? That’s what it’s about.”
DeWit: “You can take a pause for a couple of years. You can go right back to what you’re doing.”
Lake rebuffs DeWit’s offer. “This is not about money,” she says. “This is about our country.”
“All these consultants don’t want their payday to end and I don’t want to make a deal with these kinds of people,” she continued.
“This is a hill worth dying on. If they’re going to steal the election to make me and our movement go away, I’m not letting them do that. I owe it to the people of Arizona to carry their torch and their voice.”
Expect Lake to use this to sell herself
As scripts go, it was well-written and superbly delivered. Expect to see it soon in a campaign ad entitled, “Kari Lake Stands Up To the Deep State.”
Never mind, of course, that the deep state here is a Trump supporter who served both in Trump’s administration and as the chief operating officer for both Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns. And the top official in the Arizona Republican Party.
My guess is this whole bribery stunt wasn’t about powerful people who are scared of the prospect of Kari Lake as a United States senator.
More likely, it was about powerful people who are sick of losing elections in Arizona. (See: the 2018 race for Senate, the 2020 race for Senate, and the 2022 races for Senate and Lake’s own race for governor.)
Powerful people who know that a Republican would be governor of Arizona today had Kari Lake lost the GOP primary.
Still it’s a bad look to be offering bribes to politicians, one that’ll likely allow the forces of MAGA to oust DeWit on Saturday.
And the transformation of Arizona’s Republican Party will be complete.
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