Jeff Flake, the retiring Republican senator from Arizona and frequent critic of President Donald Trump, said somebody should challenge Trump for the GOP presidential nomination in 2020.
Flake, whom many speculate has his own presidential ambitions, did not indicate whether he intended to be that challenger.
Flake, during an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” criticized the president both for his constant attacks on the press and for his decisions to apply new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
“The risk is that this becomes normalized and we take as normal what is abnormal,” Flake said of Trump’s criticisms of the media.
On the tariffs, Flake said Trump had introduced “dual poisons” for the economy, by erecting new trade barriers and then introducing uncertainty by suggesting he might make some exceptions for certain countries.
Toward the end of the interview, Flake bemoaned the state of his party, expressing dismay at how it has evolved in the last few years.
“As a Republican who believes in free trade, limited government, economic freedom, I couldn’t be re-elected in my party right now,” said Flake, he won his Senate seat in 2012 after serving six terms in the U.S. House. “Somebody who voices, you know, reservations about where the president is or criticizes his behavior ... it’s tough to be re-elected in a Republican primary.”
Host Chuck Todd then asked Flake whether a Republican should challenge Trump, assuming he seeks the presidential nomination again.
“Yes, I do ― I do,” Flake said. “I mean, it would be a tough go in a Republican primary. The Republican Party is the Trump party right now. But that’s not to say it will stay that way.”
The interview ended before Todd had a chance to ask Flake whether he intended to be that 2020 challenger. But, as Todd noted previously, Flake has an upcoming trip to New Hampshire, traditionally the site of the nation’s first presidential primary.