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How Arizona Became an Abyss of Election Conspiracy Theories

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Of the roughly three dozen states that have held primary elections this year, Arizona is where Donald Trump’s conspiratorial fantasies about the 2020 election seem to have gained the most purchase.

This week, Arizona Republicans nominated candidates up and down the ballot who focused their campaigns on stoking baseless conspiracy theories about 2020, when Democrats won the state’s presidential election for only the second time since the 1940s.

Joe Biden defeated Trump in Arizona by fewer than 11,000 votes — a whisker-thin margin that has spawned unending efforts to scrutinize and overturn the results, despite election officials’ repeated and emphatic insistence that very little fraud was committed.

They are joined by Blake Masters, a hard-edged venture capitalist who is running to oust Senator Mark Kelly, the soft-spoken former astronaut who entered politics after his wife, former Representative Gabby Giffords, was seriously wounded by a gunman in 2011.

There’s also Abraham Hamadeh, the Republican nominee for attorney general, along with several candidates for the State Legislature who are all but certain to win their races. It’s pretty much election deniers all the way down.

Another notable primary result this week: Rusty Bowers, the former speaker of the Arizona House, who offered emotional congressional testimony in June about the pressure he faced to overturn the election, was easily defeated in his bid for a State Senate seat.

To make sense of it all, I spoke with Jennifer Medina, a California-based politics reporter for The New York Times who covers Arizona and has deep expertise on many of the policy issues that drive elections in the state. Our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, is below.

You’ve been reporting on Arizona for years. Why are many democracy watchers so alarmed about the primary election results there?

It’s pretty simple: If these candidates win in November, they have promised to do things like ban the use of electronic voting machines and get rid of the state’s hugely popular and long-established vote-by-mail system.

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It’s also easy to imagine a similar scenario to the 2020 presidential election but with vastly different results. Both Lake and Finchem have repeatedly said they would not have certified Biden’s victory.

Some might say this is all just partisan politics or posturing — that Finchem, Lake and Masters just said what they think they needed to say to win the primary. What does your reporting show? Is their election denial merely loose talk, or are there indications that they truly believe what they are saying?

There’s no reason to think these candidates won’t at the very least try to put in place the kinds of plans they have promoted.

Undoubtedly, they would face legal challenges from Democrats and from nonpartisan watchdog groups.

But it’s worth remembering that despite losing battle after battle in the courts over the last two years, these Republicans are still pushing the same election-denial theories. And they’ve stoked those false beliefs among huge numbers of voters, who helped power their victories on Tuesday.

We saw evidence of that this week with the surge of Republicans going to the polls in person on Election Day instead of voting by mail, as they had for years, after repeatedly hearing baseless claims that mailed-in ballots are rife with fraud. This was especially true of Lake backers.

There’s no way to know what these candidates truly believe in their hearts, but they have left no room for doubting their intentions.

What’s your sense of whether these Republicans are capable of pivoting to the center for the general election? And what might happen if they did?

We haven’t seen much, if any, evidence that these candidates have plans to pivot to the center, aside from minor tweaks to some of the language in Masters’s TV ads.

They have spent months denouncing people in the party they see as RINOs (“Republicans in name only,” in case you’ve forgotten). In Arizona, that list has included Gov. Doug Ducey, who refused to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, as Trump demanded, and the now-deceased Senator John McCain, who angered many conservatives and Trump supporters by voting against repealing the Affordable Care Act.

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So even if these candidates do try to tack toward the center, expect their Democratic opponents to point to those statements and other past comments to portray them as extremists on the right.

I do wonder how much the Republicans will continue to focus on the 2020 election in the final stretch of this year’s campaign. More moderate Republican officials and strategists I’ve spoken to in Arizona have repeatedly said they worry that doing so will weaken the party’s chances in the state, where independent voters make up roughly a third of the electorate.

Do Katie Hobbs, the secretary of state who won the Democratic nomination for governor, and Senator Mark Kelly, the Democrat who is up for re-election in the fall, talk much about election denial or Jan. 6 when they’re out with voters?

Hobbs rose to widespread prominence in the days after the 2020 election when she appeared on national television at all hours of the day and night assuring voters that all ballots would be counted fairly and accurately, no matter how long that took. So it’s not an exaggeration to say that her own fate is deeply tied to the rise of election denial.

But even as her closest supporters have promoted Hobbs as a guardian of democracy — and she has benefited from that in her fund-raising — it is not a central piece of her day-to-day campaigning. Many Democratic strategists in the state say they believe she would be better off by focusing on issues like the economy, health care and abortion.

And that line of thinking is even more true in the Kelly camp, where many believe the incumbent senator is best served by focusing on his image as an independent who is willing to buck other members of his party.

In March, for instance, Kelly referred to the rise in asylum seekers crossing the border as a “crisis,” language Biden has resisted. Kelly has also supported some portion of a border wall, a position that most Democrats adamantly oppose.

As a political issue, how does election denial play with voters versus, say, jobs or the price of gas and groceries?

We don’t know the answer yet, but whether voters view candidates who deny the 2020 election as disqualifying is one of the most important and interesting questions this fall.

I’ve spoken to dozens of people in Arizona in the last several months — Democrats, Republicans and independents — and few are single-issue voters. They are all worried about things like jobs and gas prices and inflation and abortion, but they are also very concerned about democracy and what many Republicans refer to as “election integrity.” But their understanding of what those terms mean is very different depending on their political outlook.

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Is there any aspect of these candidates’ appeal that people outside Arizona might be missing?

Each of the winning Republican candidates we’ve discussed has also focused on cracking down on immigration and militarizing the border, which could prove popular in Arizona. It’s a border state with a long history of anti-immigration policies.

Two demographic groups are widely credited with helping tilt the state toward Democrats in the last two elections: white women in the suburbs and young Latinos. As the state has trended more purple, the Republican Party is moving further to the right. Now, whether those voters show up in force for the party this year will help determine the future of many elections to come.

postcard FROM DALLAS

Is there such a thing as a heat index in Texas? Outside the Hilton Anatole hotel in Dallas, it felt like 105 degrees on Thursday.

But inside the cavernous hotel, the air conditioning was cranked up full blast as Mike Lindell, the election-denying pillow mogul who has branched out into coffee and slippers, was moving through the media row at a gathering at the Conservative Political Action Conference. A swarm of Republicans approached, angling for selfies and handshakes while they voiced their approval of his efforts and spending to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Beyond the conservative media booths, each resembling a Fox News set, I wandered through an emporium of “Trump won” and “Make America Pro-Life Again” merchandise. My N95 mask made me conspicuous, but each person I asked for an interview obliged.

There was Jeffrey Lord, who was fired by CNN in 2017 for evoking — mockingly, he said at the time — a Nazi slogan in a convoluted Twitter exchange. He told me that he had just attended a private gathering with Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister revered by many American conservatives. Orban is misunderstood, Lord told me, noting that Ronald Reagan was once accused of being a warmonger. I asked whether conservatives like Lord would put Orban in a similar category as Reagan.

“In terms of freedom, and all of that, I do,” he said. “It’s a theme with President Trump.”

In the media area inside the hotel’s main ballroom, right-wing news outlets had medallion status. A prime seat in the front row was reserved for One America News, the pro-Trump network. Two seats to my right, a woman with a media credential was eating pork rinds from a Ziploc bag.

Seven hours later, I emerged from the hotel, doffing my N95, which left an imprint on my face. It was only 99 degrees.

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Thanks for reading. We’ll see you next week.

— Blake

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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A journalist since 1994, he also founded DMGlobal Marketing & Public Relations. Glover has an extensive list of clients including corporations, non-profits, government agencies, politics, business owners, PR firms, and attorneys.

Politics

Abrams for Governor Releases New Memo Highlighting Motivating Impact of Abortion Among Georgia’s Democratic Voters

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Internal campaign polling shows that abortion is a bigger motivator for Georgia Democrats than it is for Georgia Republicans 

(ATLANTA) –  Abrams for Governor campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, released a new memo detailing the motivating impact of abortion among voters in Georgia’s 2022 elections. The memo showcases how the victory of abortion rights supporters in Kansas is a great sign for Democrats in Georgia and across the country.

Additionally, yesterday, the campaign released a new TV ad, Signed, featuring women in Georgia calling attention to the dangers of Brian Kemp’s extreme abortion ban.

“Georgia’s women and those who love them have the ability to fight for reproductive freedom, liberty from interference into private medical decisions, and the full scope of health care. The gubernatorial race is already close, the incumbent is below 50%, and Kemp’s extreme and unpopular attacks on women are disqualifying to a substantial majority of voters,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo. “The time to act is now – this race can be won, provided that we invest in the people of Georgia and ensure that they can hear about how Stacey Abrams will deliver for Georgians, stop Kemp’s far right, extreme agenda, and how Kemp’s radical tenure has already and will continue to endanger women across the state.”

Recent polling from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows that Kemp’s radical anti-abortion laws are wildly unpopular with Georgia voters — with Georgia voters opposing the overturning of Roe 39%-54%, Kemp’s six-week ban 36%-54%, and a total ban on abortion 21%-72%. Abrams for Governor’s internal polling is consistent with what the AJC poll shows when it comes to the motivational impact of abortion on this election. Georgia Democrats are almost completely unified in telling pollsters that abortion is important and motivational to them in 2022.

Overall Abrams for Governor’s internal research has shown:

  1. Abortion is a bigger motivator for GA Democrats than it is for GA Republicans.
  2. Independent voters in GA are overwhelmingly pro-choice and Kemp’s record of criminalizing abortion is very damaging among them.
  3. A measurable block of GA Republican voters defect from Kemp’s hard-right orthodoxy on abortion and oppose Kemp’s anti-choice agenda.

Abortion access and women’s liberty are on the ballot this year in Georgia. In his first year, Governor Kemp’s priority was signing one of the country’s most extreme and dangerous abortion laws, a law that prevents women from getting life-saving healthcare. His cruel bill sets women up to be investigated and criminalized if they miscarry; threatens to jail doctors who provide life-saving care; and forces rape and incest victims to file police reports to access care. His law bans abortion before most women know they are pregnant, stripping women of their freedom and dictating the personal medical decision of women and their families. This election is a contrast between having a governor who will fight to protect women’s reproductive freedom versus a Governor bent on controlling women’s bodies for his political gain.

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What U Need Is… Join the BWOPA and Partners Statewide Listening Session / Conversation on Reparations Now!

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Biden Is an Uneasy Champion on Abortion. Can He Lead the Fight in Post-Roe America?

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to an abortion in the United States after nearly 50 years has set in motion a generational struggle over Republican efforts to ban the procedure in states across the country.

But inside the West Wing, President Biden has made it clear that he is uncomfortable even using the word abortion, according to current and former advisers. In speeches and public statements, he prefers to use the word sparingly, focusing instead on broader phrases, like “reproductive health” and “the right to choose,” that might resonate more widely with the public.

Mr. Biden, a practicing Catholic who has drawn on his faith to shape his political identity, is now being called on to lead a fight he spent decades sidestepping — and many abortion rights advocates worry that he may not be the right messenger for the moment.

Once an outright critic of abortion rights and later a committed but quiet defender of them, Mr. Biden has a history that gives activists pause.

“This is not necessarily the guy that I am sure most activists wanted in the seat when this happened,” said Jamie L. Manson, the president of Catholics for Choice, referring to the court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. “It’s unfortunate because he has so much power and we need him to really get out of his comfort zone.”

For five decades, Mr. Biden has talked openly about the power of his religion, portraying himself as an advocate for workers and a warrior for social justice. His faith also had guided him toward what he once called a “middle of the road” approach to abortion — essentially, not voting to limit abortion, but not voting to fund it either.

And like other Democrats of his generation, Mr. Biden used the existence of Roe v. Wade’s protections to avoid pushing for legislation that might have enshrined the ruling in federal law.

Now, a growing chorus of women’s groups, progressive Democrats and abortion rights activists see the decision to overturn Roe as an indictment of that middle-ground approach, saying Democrats like Mr. Biden have tiptoed too carefully around the issue for years.

The Supreme Court’s decision, they say, must be met with an equally fierce legal, political and rhetorical response. And after a decisive vote this past week to defend abortion rights in deeply conservative Kansas, many Democrats see this as the moment to run more assertively on the issue.

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Mr. Biden’s advisers say that his views on abortion have changed over time and that he is deeply committed to abortion rights. Laphonza Butler, the president of Emily’s List, a group that helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, said she was satisfied that Mr. Biden and his team were “using every tool at their disposal” to fight for the cause.

But the president’s history on abortion — informed by his religion and the Democratic Party’s years of careful political calculations — has left him struggling to live up to the expectations of those in his party who want a new strategy and a new energy.

“Yes, there are limits to executive branch power, there are limits to what the president can do,” said Andrea Miller, the president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health. “But this just feels like you’ve got to push the boundaries right now. This is a time to pull out all the stops. This is a time to take risks.”

In 2007, Mr. Biden wrote in his memoir “Promises to Keep” that his position on abortion had “earned me the distrust of some women’s groups.” In the book, he recounted a 1973 conversation with a veteran senator who said his cautious approach was a “tough” one.

“‘Yeah, everybody will be upset with me,’ I told him, ‘except me. But I’m intellectually and morally comfortable with my position,’” Mr. Biden wrote in the book.

Now, he finds himself championing abortion rights. In June, just days after the court’s ruling, he appeared miffed when a reporter noted that some activists did not believe he was the right person to lead the fight against Republican efforts to ban the procedure.

“I’m the only president they got,” he said.

Mr. Biden has often said that his views on abortion — and the proper role for government to play in regulating it — are the result of his faith. In 1982, when he voted in favor of a constitutional amendment pushed by Republicans to allow individual states to overturn Roe v. Wade, he said: “I’m probably a victim, or a product, however you want to phrase it, of my background.”

The Catholic Church considers human life to begin at conception and says that “the intentional killing of a human being living in the womb” is always immoral. Church teachings generally allow for “indirect” abortions when a medical procedure needed for another lifesaving reason results in the death of a fetus. But many Catholics disagree with the church’s official position. In a Pew Research Center survey released last month, 60 percent of Catholics in the United States said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Other Democratic politicians have faced difficult moments navigating their stands on the issue. The leaders of the American Catholic Church have publicly rebuked Catholic politicians like John F. Kerry, the former Massachusetts senator, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi for their stances.

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By his own admission, Mr. Biden is a deeply religious person who rarely misses a chance to attend Mass.

Last year in St. Ives, a seaside town in Cornwall on the southern tip of England, Mr. Biden, who was attending the annual Group of 7 meeting with world leaders, slipped into the back pews of the Sacred Heart and St. Ia Church for Mass with about 50 other parishioners. The Rev. Philip Dyson had been given a heads-up just minutes before the arrival of the president and his wife.

“I did find him gracious and humble and a gentleman,” Father Dyson said, recalling the brief conversation after the Mass. The priest would not talk about whether he offered communion to the president during the service. Some Roman Catholic bishops believe politicians who support abortion should be denied communion.

“It’s controversial, and it’s between him and the Lord,” Father Dyson said.

John Carr, the director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, said that abortion had been the one part of Mr. Biden’s faith that had been a source of conflict for the president and his allies over the years.

“He is a product of Catholic social teaching and Democratic orthodoxy,” said Mr. Carr, who has participated in several small-group discussions with Mr. Biden about religion and politics. “When the two go together, he’s really comfortable with the way he talks, the way he acts. Where he is the least at home is where the two conflict.”

Allies of the president note that since the Supreme Court ruling, Mr. Biden has issued two executive orders aimed at protecting the right to travel for health care and the right to access medications. This past week, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit in Idaho, accusing the state of illegally restricting abortion when the procedure is needed to stabilize a woman’s health.

“The president’s faith is not the problem that we have,” said Representative Katherine M. Clark, Democrat of Massachusetts and the assistant speaker. “The problem is an extremist G.O.P. that says, ‘We don’t respect your faith, your medical history, your circumstance.’”

But for most of his career, Mr. Biden has been viewed with suspicion by abortion rights advocates because of his history on the issue.

In 1984, Mr. Biden voted to praise the “Mexico City Policy,” a decision by the Reagan administration to prevent funding of abortion services abroad. It was a position that would be anathema for a Democratic president today. Over the years since, Republican presidents have routinely reinstated the policy, and Democrats have eliminated it. Mr. Biden rescinded it eight days after taking office.

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For years, Mr. Biden also declined to join other Democrats in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a federal ban on funding for abortion. It was not until 2019 that he reversed himself. Facing intense backlash from within his party, he said he could “no longer support an amendment” that makes it harder for low-income women to get access to an abortion. Although he followed through by submitting budgets without Hyde’s restrictive language, lawmakers added it back in.

As vice president, Mr. Biden fought to exempt Catholic institutions from the Affordable Care Act requirement to provide coverage for contraception. The provision was fiercely opposed by American Catholic bishops, and Mr. Biden tried to make the bishops’ case.

He lost in the end, though the contraception mandate was later struck down by the Supreme Court.

Kathleen Sebelius, who served as secretary of health and human services under President Barack Obama, said that Mr. Biden wanted to “just avoid a battle with the church.”

“I think that’s sort of where he started the conversation,” she said. But she recalled that Mr. Biden eventually acknowledged the impact that denying contraceptive coverage would have for people who worked at Catholic institutions.

“He started in one place, and then gradually moved to a very different place,” she said.

On other issues where Democratic Party positions clashed with Catholic teaching, like support for same-sex marriage, Mr. Biden was quicker to change his position, said Mr. Carr, noting what he called the president’s “passion and eloquence” on L.G.B.T.Q. issues.

But he said abortion had always seemed more difficult for the president.

“Biden has never sought power to make abortion more available,” Mr. Carr said. “It’s just not part of who he is.”

The president admitted as much in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2007.

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“I’m a practicing Catholic,” he said. “And it is the biggest dilemma for me in terms of comporting my religious and cultural views with my political responsibility.”

Two days before the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion rights advocates met at the White House with some of Mr. Biden’s top aides and with Vice President Kamala Harris, who has become a forceful voice of the administration on the issue of abortion.

Everyone knew what was likely to happen, after Politico’s publication weeks earlier of a draft opinion in the abortion case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. But some of the people around the table left unhappy with the administration’s plans to respond to the ruling.

“It was a very frustrating meeting where we were looking to the White House for guidance,” Ms. Manson, of Catholics for Choice, said. “And instead, what we got was a recap of all the conversations they had had with all of us.”

Others at the meeting described it differently, saying the administration had spent weeks preparing for the Dobbs ruling in a series of productive meetings with activists.

But the frustration clearly underscored the tension between Mr. Biden and abortion rights activists, many of whom have said publicly that the president’s past positions make it hard for them to trust that he is all-in on the fight.

Mr. Biden’s aides note that he has used the word “abortion” a handful of times since the ruling. And in a statement on Saturday condemning a new Indiana law banning almost all abortions, the White House used the term in reiterating support for reproductive rights.

But some veterans of the abortion rights movement say they remain wary of a president who is uncomfortable with using the word. Others say they are willing to judge Mr. Biden by his actions.

Mini Timmaraju, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said there was value in Mr. Biden’s approach, which can appeal to a broader audience. But she said the president should not avoid using direct, forceful language at a moment when people are scared.

“He’s done that,” she said. “And he’s going to need to get more comfortable with that because this is the modern-day Democratic Party. He’s getting there, from what I can see.”

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Katie Rogers contributed reporting from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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