Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (AZ-R) announced that he would not be seeking re-election in 2018. This came exactly one week after Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon and Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham went to Arizona to campaign for Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward. The soon-to-be former Senator didn’t credit this as the reason for his retirement, but early polls indicated that Flake would have likely lost in his primary had he chosen to run for reelection. Coincidence?
Many of the GOP members in Arizona have been searching for a candidate to run against Flake, who this summer published a book, “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and A Return to Principle,” in which he criticized the Republican Party for embracing Trumpism. He may have waxed eloquently on the Senate floor regarding his disdain for President Trump and other Republican senators whom he deemed complicit, but one has to wonder if there is more to the story. Was it the Bannon curse?
There are those who believe Senator Flake forgot that he was sent to Washington D.C. as the voice of the people and instead became the worst kind of swamp dweller. The feeling is that he used his position to get rich by writing what will probably be one of many books trashing President Trump and his type of politics. Jeff Flake touted his resignation under the guise of “high principle,” but it seems he’s just trying to make a buck by feeding the “never Trumpers” with his poison pen. Unfortunately, this is typical of the “real” Jeff Flake Arizonans have come to know over the years.
Besides the State of Arizona, there aren’t many opportunities for Democrats to gain Senate seats in 2018. Up until yesterday, Flake was considered the most vulnerable senator up for re-election due to the challenges he would face from both Republicans and Democrats. While Arizona is likely to remain the Democrats’ best opportunity to pick up a seat, Flake’s announcement certainly has the potential to be a game changer.
Now that Senator Flake is out, the nomination will not necessarily default to Ward. There are other, more establishment-friendly Republicans who may jump into the race. If, by chance, one of them wins the primary, it could mean that the retirement of Senator Flake swings the open seat in the “right” direction. A new Republican candidate may be able to hold the Trump base without alienating voters in the center who fear Kelli Ward is an extreme conservative.
Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit and Robert Graham, who ran the Arizona Republican Party, are just a couple of the names being tossed around as candidates who could unite the establishment Republicans and the far-right activists. Both are close to Donald Trump and attended his rally in Phoenix in August as VIP guests. Currently, Ward appears to have the advantage, as she has the endorsement of some prominent conservatives in the chattering class, including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and the biggest Kahuna of them all — Steve Bannon.
Kelli Ward is positioning herself for a fight to win the GOP’s Senate nomination. In an interview Tuesday with The Arizona Republic, Ward said:
“Flake’s criticism of Trump, delivered in a dramatic Senate floor speech, is a reflection of spending too much time in Washington, D.C.
He has lost connection with the people of Arizona and the people across the country because I can tell you the people in November showed that they do want Donald Trump as our president,” Ward said, adding that Flake’s view of today’s politics is “unfortunate.”
“I do think that the voters of Arizona are the ones who are celebrating today,” she said. “They are the ones who are going to come out on top. They have been looking for someone to support the president and his agenda.”
Miss Ward is correct, and she speaks out loud the thoughts of many Republicans in Arizona who have been left by the wayside by their elected Senators Flake and McCain. These two men have put their agendas above their constituents, and are responsible for this red state being in danger of turning blue.
CNN has been going on for days about the retirement of Jeff Flake – typical overkill, over analysis, and over dramatization of how “bad” this is for the Republicans and President Trump. At the end of the day, whether it was Bannon collecting another scalp (as promised) or just the self-inflicted demise of the junior senator from Arizona, the result is the same. The swamp is draining, and that should make us all happy.
But for now, we will have to wait and see who emerges as the chosen candidate for the Republican’s in 2018.