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Kari Lake travels to Mar-a-Lago fresh off projected loss in Arizona

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Kari Lake, who was projected Monday to lose her race for governor of Arizona, traveled Thursday to former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, according to two people familiar with the activity.

One of the people said she received a standing ovation when she entered a luncheon hosted at the club by the America First Policy Institute, a think tank founded last year by Trump allies and former members of his administration. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private events.

The think tank is holding a “Gala and Experience” at Trump’s club on Thursday and Friday. An agenda says the event’s aim is to “ensure polices are prepared and finalized for new sessions of Congress and the state house.”

Lake has not conceded defeat. The visit to Mar-a-Lago, while vote counting continues in Arizona, signals that she is already taking steps to maintain her profile in the former president’s orbit. Her support also could prove consequential for Trump, who launched his 2024 presidential campaign this week under criticism for his role in the party’s underwhelming performance in the midterm elections.

Lake, a former television news anchor, modeled her bid for governor on Trump’s campaigns and echoed his false assertions that he was cheated out of reelection in 2020. She speaks to the former president regularly, according to current and former campaign advisers. The former president called in to her campaign’s “war room” on Sunday to express disbelief that Republicans were trailing in vote counts and to express support for her and other GOP candidates.

Lake was projected Monday to lose the race to Democrat Katie Hobbs, the current secretary of state. On Tuesday, Lake reacted to Trump’s announcement of a third bid for the White House by declaring on Twitter that he had her “complete and total endorsement!” Lake was frequently discussed as a potential vice-presidential pick for Trump, although she maintained on the campaign trail that she intended to serve a full term as governor if elected.

Now that she’s been defeated for state office, her political path is less clear. On Thursday, she told her supporters on social media that “we are still in this fight,” denouncing Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and more than half the state’s voters, for problems on Election Day that involved malfunctioning printers.

In the early hours of Election Day, printers at 70 of the county’s 223 polling sites produced ballots with ink that was too light to be read by vote-counting machines. That caused ballots to be rejected by the machines. Voters were told to either wait in line, travel to another voting location or deposit their ballots in secure boxes that were transferred to downtown Phoenix and counted there. County officials dispatched technicians to fix settings on the printers experiencing the problems. While technicians were out at other polling locations, they also changed settings on printers proactively, a county spokesperson said. County officials plan to investigate the root cause of the printer problems in the coming weeks.

Lake and her allies have cast the problems as “voter suppression,” a theme that may become central to GOP legal efforts in statewide races. But county officials have repeatedly said no one was denied the right to vote and noted various instances of Republicans spreading misinformation about the use of the secure boxes on Election Day, despite such boxes having been used for years.

Her campaign also issued a series of video testimonials from voters who claim to have been denied a chance to vote. They included a link to a fundraising page for Lake’s campaign.

A judge refused a request from Republicans to extend voting hours on Election Day in light of the problems, finding that no one had been prevented from voting. Lake’s campaign is weighing its legal options in coordination with Abraham Hamadeh, the Republican candidate for attorney general who is trailing his Democratic opponent but whose race has not yet been called, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations.