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Why it matters that Republicans keep flocking to Arizona's 'audit'

"A clown with a flamethrower still has a flamethrower," one observer noted, "and the danger of this is spreading from state to state."

Arizona Republicans' utterly bonkers "audit" of Maricopa County's presidential ballots is reportedly nearing its end, but the damaging effects of the fiasco are just getting started.

The conservative Washington Times reported overnight, for example, on the ridiculous "audit" becoming a "mecca" for Republican officials and candidates nationwide.

Kristina Karamo wants voters to know she made the 2,000-mile trek from Michigan to Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix to get a firsthand glimpse of the Maricopa County election audit that has become a cause celebre for supporters of former President Donald Trump. Ms. Karamo, a candidate for secretary of state, is among a growing number of Republicans running for public office who have made the pilgrimage to Arizona to learn about the process and pay homage to Mr. Trump and his supporters.

Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R), a spokesperson for the audit, told the Washington Post last week, "I think some of it was just people watching and seeing what's going on in Arizona. It took them a few weeks to decide: Wow, that's still going? And nobody shut it down? Something must be going on that maybe we ought to go look at if we're thinking about doing something similar in our state."

Some of this is simply a matter of political posturing, with Republicans showing up in Phoenix simply to show face and tie themselves to the indefensible process in the hopes of advancing their own personal ambitions.

For example, Missouri's Eric Greitens, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate attempting a comeback after having resigned in disgrace in 2018, recently made an in-person appearance. He soon after published nonsensical content to social media about "decertifying" 2020 results, all as part of an apparent effort to impress far-right elements of the Republican base.

But there's another dimension to this, which the Arizona Republic highlighted this week:

There are more pleasant months of the year than June to visit Phoenix, but a growing number of officials and Republican legislators from around the country are making a sort of pilgrimage to see and be seen at the state Senate's ongoing recount of Maricopa County's general election ballots. An opportunity to get publicity from right-wing media outlets that have followed the effort, some of the visitors say it is also a chance to glimpse a process they would like to replicate in their home states after pushing unsuccessfully to overturn the results of last year's election.

This is no passing curiosity. Sure, some far-right politicians want to simply check a box -- they'll be able to tell future primary voters they paid homage to the ludicrous process by showing up in Phoenix -- but what matters more are the far-right politicians who are eager to export the Arizona fiasco to their home states.

With this in mind, Arizona Republic's report listed the visitors to Veterans Memorial Coliseum "from nearly a dozen" states. One local GOP candidate told the Washington Times that there have been "delegations and visitors" from Pennsylvania, Georgia, Alaska, Michigan, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, Nevada, Virginia, and Colorado -- with more "sure to follow."

On the one hand, a variety of prominent Arizona Republicans are increasingly mortified by this embarrassing debacle, and the Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors recently urged the GOP-led state Senate to put a stop to the madness, calling the outlandish process a "spectacle that is harming all of us." They added, "Our state has become a laughingstock."

But on the other hand, Republicans from nearly a dozen other states want to become a laughingstock, too. This includes two GOP state legislators from Wisconsin, who returned from Arizona with plans to duplicate the process in the Badger State.

Both of the Wisconsin legislators reportedly visited Arizona thanks to a trip paid for by a non-profit linked to the pro-Trump One America Now (OAN) network, which has been given special access to the "audit" as part of the political crusade.

Charlie Sykes concluded on MSNBC last week, "We can roll our eyes and treat the Arizona audit as a joke, but a clown with a flamethrower still has a flamethrower, and the danger of this is spreading from state to state."