Flake passes on primary challenge to Trump in 2020.
Former Sen. Jeff Flake won’t challenge President Donald Trump in his bid for reelection, he announced Tuesday, putting to rest months of speculation about what’s next for one of the GOP’s most prominent Trump critics.
“I have always said that I do hope that there is a Republican who challenges the president in the primary,” he said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.” “I still hope that somebody does, but that somebody won’t be me. I will not be a candidate.”
The Arizona Republican has fueled murmurs that he could take on the president either in a primary challenge or in an independent bid after deciding not to run for reelection in 2018 amid fears he would lose to a more Trump-friendly primary challenger back home.
Flake has became known for his frequent criticisms of the president, lamenting the lack of civility in politics and breaking with his party to hold up key priorities in order to squeeze out concessions on issues important to him.
But he said Tuesday that there was a much too difficult path to beating Trump in a primary.
“There really isn’t a path right now that I could see,” he said, noting that the Republican National Committee and the president’s reelection campaign had taken steps to solidify Trump’s standing atop the party. Last weekend, the RNC passed a resolution declaring “undivided support” and the Trump campaign is vetting potential delegates to minimize the the possibility of defectors at the party’s nominating convention.
“The RNC and the president’s campaign are now melded. They’re trying to do everything they can to squelch any opposition,” Flake said Tuesday.
But, he added, “I still hope that some — and some are still talking about it — do run, I think that that’s healthy. And I’m not a fan of this president. But that won’t be me.”
While he was careful to qualify a challenge to the president as an uphill battle, new polling out Tuesday seems to show that at least some Republican voters are receptive to the idea.