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Senate hopeful Kari Lake courts Nikki Haley supporters while calling failed presidential bid a ‘vanity project’

Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake says she will court voters who backed GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley – and those who would have voted for independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema – even as she criticized Haley’s campaign as a “vanity project” in an interview with CNN Wednesday.

Lake, a former Arizona gubernatorial nominee, told CNN she will seek the support of “all Republicans” in the state – and independents, too – making a pitch that they should get behind her expected Senate campaign against Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego in what is now a two-way race after Sinema announced she will not run for reelection.

“I am actively trying to court all Republicans, whether they are, you know, MAGA Republicans, somewhere in the middle, or traditional Republicans,” Lake said. “I want everybody’s vote.”

Lake is seeking to moderate her positions in some areas, such as abortion, where she said Wednesday she did not support a federal abortion ban or a century-old Arizona statute that is a near total ban on abortion, despite previously expressing support for the law.

But Lake – a staunch supporter of Donald Trump who has backed his lies about the 2020 election and baselessly claimed her own 2022 loss was rigged as well – is not about to stop going after the former president’s perceived enemies. Following reports that Haley would drop out of the presidential race Tuesday, Lake tweeted: “Nimrata Haley will suspend her campaign today after more humiliating, landslide loses on Super Tuesday.”

In the interview with CNN, the GOP candidate criticized Haley for continuing her campaign against Trump through Super Tuesday and for not endorsing the former president.

“She’s stayed in all this time and hundreds of millions of dollars has been spent on really what has been a vanity project, and hearing today that she was going to suspend her campaign – and still not endorse President Trump – that’s not unifying,” Lake said. “And I think it’s time that she does unify, get behind President Trump.”

Lake says there’s room in the party for those who don’t support Trump – but said that anyone supported Biden isn’t a Republican.

“President Trump’s coming. He’s going to be back in the White House,” she said. “If you didn’t support him, and you’re still Republican, that’s fine. But if you’re supporting Joe Biden, if that’s the alternative, then I think you’re probably not a Republican.”

Lake is in Washington on Wednesday where she’s holding fundraisers and meeting with Senate Republican leaders, including Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell. On Wednesday, Senate GOP Whip John Thune, a candidate for GOP leader, announced his support for Lake in the Arizona Senate race, the latest sign of the party establishment closing ranks behind the MAGA-aligned candidate.

The political calculation in the US Senate race in Arizona shifted this week following Sinema’s decision to retire at the end of her term, turning a potential three-way contest into a head-to-head affair that is shaping up to have Lake facing off with Gallego.

On the Democratic side, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer endorsed Gallego on Tuesday after Sinema announced her decision, signaling that Democratic party leaders are backing Gallego in one of the races that could decide control of the Senate seats this fall.

Lake told CNN that she did not support a federal abortion ban, saying she thinks it should be decided by the states. And she said she supported a law barring abortions after 15 weeks in Arizona – while the state’s Supreme Court heard arguments in December on whether to enforce a law dating back to 1864 that bans the procedure in all cases except when “it is necessary to save” a mother’s life, and that carries a prison sentence of two to five years for abortion providers.

“I think it should be the 15th week, and I believe that’s what’s going to happen if I have to take a guess, but it’s up to the court right now,” Lake said.

Lake previously said she supported the century-old law, saying in 2022 that Arizona had “a great law that’s already on the books.”

But Lake on Wednesday that her comments had been taken out of context.

“I don’t, I support the 15-week ban,” she said when asked about her previous support of the near-total ban. “I said I supported the law that was on the books.”

Lake said that she would not have supported the Senate border compromise, which Sinema helped negotiate. Gallego was supportive of the package, which did not go anywhere in the Senate after weeks of talks.

“I’ve been very outspoken about it because it really wasn’t about securing the border,” Lake said. “There were $0 in it to build the wall, which I know the wall works.”

Lake also said she would join the faction of Senate Republicans opposing any additional military aid to Ukraine, saying it was time for a negotiated solution between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin. That position aligns her with Trump, who has opposed a funding package for aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan that the Senate passed last month.

“I don’t support sending more money to Ukraine,” Lake said. “I think this is a war that’s been lost, I really do. When the spring offensive failed, the war was lost. And so I support what President Trump wants to do: Bring these two leaders to the negotiating table and talk peace. And the fastest way to do that is to cut off the spending that is funding the war.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

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