President Trump is looking for loyal foot soldiers, and if he has to sink the careers of Republican lawmakers to do it, then he’s all in.
One for instance would be Arizona Senator Jeff Flake.
Flake would not support Trump during the run up to the election, and now is one of a handful of Republicans who refuse to back the atrocious GOP Obamacare replacement bill.
With that in mind, Trump may be looking to primary Flake, making him the head on the spike used as a warning to other Republicans that might oppose him.
Since taking office, Trump has spoken with Arizona state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, a top official on his 2016 campaign, on at least two occasions, according to two sources familiar with the talks. More recently, since June, White House officials have also had discussions with former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who has announced her bid, and former Arizona GOP Chairman Robert Graham, who like DeWit is exploring a campaign.
At a California RNC meeting in May, Trump’s deputy campaign manager and president of Citizens United, David Bossie told Graham that should he or DeWit decide to run, they’d have the backing of conservatives.
Other Trump loyalists have spoken out, as well.
“Maybe [Flake] should get back on the Trump team. A lot of people believe in Trump’s policies,” said former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a prominent immigration hard-liner who backed Trump, noting that the president remained popular in Arizona. “There’s a silent majority that’s still there, and still in this state, so watch out.”
They’re not that silent. I still don’t get where they felt that phrase applies to them. I’m just going to guess they don’t really know what it means.
Graham, who has begun reviewing polling and purchasing campaign website addresses, was present at a meeting this spring of top GOP donors in Arizona that was also attended by Chris Bannon, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s younger brother and a University of Arizona official. At the top of the agenda, according to three people familiar with the event, was a prospective Graham primary against Flake. During the meeting, which was also attended by Arizona Cardinals executive Michael Bidwill, several donors expressed mounting frustration with the incumbent.
Those familiar with the gathering stressed that Chris Bannon, who is widely viewed as a conduit to his powerful brother, was more of a listener than active participant and did not articulate his feelings about a Flake challenge.
And if the citizens are unhappy with Flake’s performance, that should be the sole reason a challenger steps forward – not as a hitman or hitwoman to exact Trump’s revenge.
Trump has said he would primary candidates that didn’t support his agenda, and the bad blood with Flake goes back to the last primary season.
Flake called on Trump to withdraw from the race back when the Access Hollywood tape emerged. He even refused to attend the RNC convention, saying he’d be busy mowing his lawn.
Still, Flake has been supportive of most of Trump’s policies, since Trump took office. Flake is vulnerable, at this point, and may need support from the White House that is not forthcoming.
The White House says they’re not actively searching for a primary challenger for Flake’s seat. I feel like we’ll be hearing more stories like this if the Obamacare replacement bill ever makes it to the floor for a vote, however.