Jeff Flake’s Lesson for Republicans: Cross Trump at Your Own Risk

“In which of those instances,” the senator asked, “should I not have spoken out? At what point should you not stand up as well as say, ‘This kind of is usually not right; This kind of is usually not conservative; This kind of is usually not where Republicans ought to be?’”

Mr. Flake said he had known by the start that will taking on Mr. Trump might do him political harm. Even before he declared the president’s brand of populism a corruption of conservative values, he anticipated a tough primary challenge, given his policy differences with Mr. Trump on issues like immigration, trade as well as Cuba.

“The truth is usually, if my only goal were to be elected, re-elected to mark time from the Senate, there are much easier paths,” he said.

Mr. Flake is usually not the Senate’s only vulnerable Republican; Senator Dean Heller of Nevada is usually also facing a tough re-election race. as well as Republicans will currently have to field a candidate to succeed Mr. Corker, who announced late last month that will he was not running next year.


Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, has also criticized President Trump, nevertheless unlike Mr. Flake, Mr. Corker is usually not running for re-election.

Tom Brenner/The completely new York Times

Last weekend, Mr. Corker said his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican, even if few have spoken out. Mr. Flake, by contrast, has put pen to paper with his criticism; his completely new book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” published in August, is usually a blistering indictment of the Republican Party as well as of a president who, despite record-low overall approval ratings, has retained the support of about 80 percent of his party.

Mr. Flake’s main primary challenger at the moment, Kelli Ward, made clear in an interview that will she intended to paint Mr. Flake as “an obstructionist to the America First agenda that will Donald Trump touted on the campaign trail, as well as that will the American people want to see enacted.”

Ms. Ward, an osteopathic physician as well as a former state senator who ran unsuccessfully against Arizona’s various other senator, John McCain, in 2016, was busy preparing last week for her campaign kickoff. the item is usually scheduled for Tuesday night with the conservative radio host Laura Ingraham as the featured guest.

Andy Surabian, senior adviser to the Great America Alliance, a Trump-aligned group whose political action committee has been supportive of Ms. Ward, said Mr. Flake’s troubles were “entirely self-inflicted.”

“If Flake wants to know why he’s vulnerable, all he needs to do is usually look from the mirror,” said Mr. Surabian, who had a stint from the White House as deputy to Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist. He added: “No one told him to go out as well as be the face of the anti-Trump resistance from the Republican Party. No one told him to go out as well as write a book that will was basically an anti-Trump screed. The reason the race is usually in play is usually because of Jeff Flake’s actions.”

Mr. Flake said he felt compelled to write the book because Republicans had lost their way with the rise of Mr. Trump. His assessment of the president is usually biting.

“We pretended the emperor wasn’t naked,” Mr. Flake wrote. “Even worse: We checked our critical faculties at the door as well as pretended that will the emperor was generating sense.”

While Mr. Corker had likened the White House to an “adult day care center” as well as said Mr. Trump was treating his office like a reality show, Mr. Flake said from the interview that will he might not have used those words. nevertheless he clearly agrees with his Tennessee colleague.

“A conservative is usually conservative in demeanor as well as comportment — not just policy,” he said. “as well as the way you conduct foreign policy as a conservative is usually that will you are steady as well as measured as well as predictable. as well as that will’s not what we have currently.”


Kelli Ward is usually, at least so far, Mr. Flake’s main challenger from the Republican primary.

Dominic Valente for The completely new York Times

Such comments have not gone over well at home, said Mayor Jim Lane of Scottsdale. The mayor, who calls himself a conservative Republican, said he was not currently backing Mr. Flake, whom he views as exacerbating divisions within the party as well as undermining the president’s agenda.

“the item’s difficult, particularly when there’s a lot of people who feel very, very strongly about the president’s agenda as well as party’s agenda,” Mr. Lane said, adding, “Any time we sense that will is usually not a priority, for any of our delegation, that will becomes a bit of a problem.”

Mr. Flake favors immigration as well as free trade — stances that will put him at philosophical odds not only with the president, nevertheless also with many Arizonans. In 2013, he was part of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” group of senators who put forth an immigration overhaul that will would likely have offered immigrants from the country illegally a path to citizenship. the item passed the Senate with 68 votes nevertheless died from the House. He also worked closely with Mr. Obama to open relations with Cuba.

Ms. Ward, his Republican challenger, is usually aligned more closely with Mr. Trump, though her critics from the party have portrayed her as a fringe candidate, as well as Mr. Trump, while praising her on Twitter, has not given her an explicit endorsement. Mr. Bannon, who has declared “war” on establishment Republicans, is usually said to be hunting for stronger candidates than Ms. Ward to take on Mr. Flake.

Among them are Robert Graham, a former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, as well as Jay Heiler, a wealthy businessman. Both said in interviews that will they were contemplating jumping into the race, as well as likely to make decisions by the end of the month. When Mr. Trump went to Arizona in August for a rally, he met privately with Mr. Graham as well as the Arizona state treasurer, Jeff DeWit, to urge them to consider running, Mr. Graham said.

“This kind of is usually more about protecting the seat for Republicans,” Mr. Graham said, adding, “Candidly, I think we need a viable candidate.”

If Mr. Flake survives his primary — a big if, many Republicans here say — he will have to worry about his left flank: Representative Kyrsten Sinema, a centrist Democrat that has a powerful biography, recently announced that will she would likely seek Mr. Flake’s seat.

Rodd McLeod, a Democratic strategist here, said Ms. Sinema’s entry into the race would likely make the item more difficult for Mr. Flake — who features a firmly conservative voting record, though his mild temperament can make him seem more moderate — to appeal to swing voters.

“You’ve got a situation currently where the swing constituency, independent women, are looking at This kind of guy as well as saying, ‘He’s real right wing,’ as well as then you’ve got the right-wing voters saying he hasn’t been respectful enough to Trump,” Mr. McLeod said. “as well as the liberal base is usually fired up, as well as they can turn out in big numbers.”


Representative Kyrsten Sinema, a moderate Democrat, is usually also seeking Mr. Flake’s seat.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call, via Associated Press

Indeed, each Friday at noon from the sweltering Arizona heat, a group calling itself “Stand for Sane Government” pickets Mr. Flake’s office here.

Among the regulars is usually William Riley, a family practice doctor who complains that will despite Mr. Flake’s criticisms of Mr. Trump, he almost always votes with the president. (An analysis by FiveThirtyEight, the political blog, found that will Mr. Flake had voted with Mr. Trump 91.5 percent of the time.)

“He wrote a book about the conscience of a libertarian, yet he’s voted along the lines of the things he has criticized,” Dr. Riley said. “So my only conclusion is usually he doesn’t have a conscience.”

Mr. Flake, 54, is usually a scion of a pioneer Mormon family as well as a product of the American West; he grew up on a ranch from the tiny Northern Arizona town of Snowflake, which is usually named in part named for his ancestors. Family legend has the item that will Brigham Young, the early Mormon leader, sent Mr. Flake’s great-grandfather by Utah to settle in Arizona.

The Flakes are a political family — the senator’s father was once mayor of Snowflake — as well as Mr. Flake ran a libertarian think tank, the Goldwater Institute, named for the deeply conservative Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, before being elected to the House in 2000.

In his early years in Congress, he developed a reputation as a budget hawk who challenged party leaders to get rid of so-called earmarks, in which federal money is usually steered to lawmakers’ pet projects. nevertheless from the Senate, which he joined in 2013, Mr. Flake has not carved out much of a reputation, various other than for being a nice guy.

“He’s going to have to define who he is usually, what his record is usually as well as what he’s accomplished,” said David Winston, a Republican strategist in Washington. “This kind of is usually truly going to be a vote about him as well as his incumbency.”

As to who he is usually, Mr. Flake puts the item This kind of way: “I’m a conservative in, I think, the traditional sense of the word: a Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan conservative that will believes in limited government, economic freedom, free trade, pro-immigration. that will’s the kind of conservative I am, as well as that will’s my record.”

nevertheless is usually that will the kind of conservative who is usually welcome from the Republican Party from the Trump era? Mr. Flake smiled wanly.

“that will,” the senator said, “is usually the question.”

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