Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake was interviewed today on NBC's Meet the Press. He told host Chuck Todd that as an anti-Trump republican, he could not be re-elected in 2018. While this may be true to a certain extent, his 2018 re-election problems began well before President Trump even held the 2016 GOP nomination.
“I love the senate. I love this institution. I love the Congress. I’m not leaving because of any ill will towards my colleagues or this place. This is a great system of government,” Sen. Flake told the host.
“So, why ya leavin’?” Todd interjected.”
“I just can’t – as a Republican who believes in free trade, limited government, economic freedom, I couldn’t be re-elected in my party right now. Somebody who voices reservations about where the president is or criticizes his behavior like last night, it’s tough to be re-elected in a Republican primary.”
Sen. Flake went on to say that the Republican party is now the party of Trump. If Sen. Flake’s statement was correct, it would make since then that as an anti-Trump senator, he would have a hard time getting re-elected.
But, Sen. Flake neglects to admit his intra-party squabbles started almost as soon as he entered office in 2012.
In a 2015 Washington Post article, former ardent Flake supporters who thought they were sending a bona-fide conservative to Washington condemned Flake saying that he was an embarrassment to the ideology.
“In the 2012 race for the seat he now holds, he won the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a group established by then-Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) to elect more rock-ribbed candidates.
"Now the same group is threatening to support a primary challenger three years before Flake is up for reelection. Ken Cuccinelli II, the fund’s president, said in a statement that Flake has been “an embarrassment” to conservatives.
“Whether it’s supporting amnesty, gun control, Obamacare funding, or the president’s failed foreign policy, Senator Flake has betrayed the voters who sent him to Washington and should be replaced with a true conservative in 2018,” Cuccinelli said in a statement.”
At the time, Sen. Flake defended his rogue positions as personal integrity and dismissed any concerns he would not be able to be re-elected.
“Life’s too short,” he said this week. “Certainly my political life is too short to worry about these kinds of things. I would not serve my constituents well by being in lockstep with the party. I wouldn’t be able to justify the time it takes away from my family and everything else if I were just go-along-to-get-along.”
But other critics, including his own constituents, argued the man they sent to Washington had all but disappeared.
“There is something that’s fundamentally changed since he’s been in the Senate,” said Dwight Kadar, a retired businessman and Republican activist who came to the Rotary luncheon with a “Don’t Tread on Me” pin on his jacket. “In fact, I told him ... ‘I don’t recognize you anymore. I don’t think you’re really representing Northern Arizona and its values.’?”
More specifically, many Arizonan's were upset with Sen. Flake's role in the Gang of 8 illegal immigration bill which would have given amnesty to thousands of illegal aliens.
In 2013, "the White Mountains Conservatives organization (asked) voters to recall two state senators for helping to overwhelmingly pass (68-32) the recent 1,200-page immigration reform bill through the Senate.
“In a representative republic, we expect those who run as conservatives to stay faithful to their calling,” the group's president Karen MacKean said.
MacKean even said she asked Flake to host a town-hall style meeting with constituents. At the time, she said
“So far I have gotten no response. If they continue to ignore us, they will see more and more of us standing up for the Constitution.”
Today, polling at 18% favorably in his home state, it is obvious that Sen. Flake could not be re-elected. But how much of that is due to personal opposition to President Trump remains unclear. It would be much more apt to say that Trump was elected in 2916 because of constituents angry at politicians such as Sen. Flake who betrayed their base rather than to say that Sen. Flake cannot be re-elected because of his opposition to President Trump.