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Sen. Flake Holds Off Endorsing Trump; Won't Go To GOP Convention

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has decided not to attend the Republican National Convention.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has decided not to attend the Republican National Convention.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake turned up in news accounts last week when his party's presidential candidate predicted Flake would lose his re-election bid in Arizona.

In an interview with NPR, Flake says that Donald Trump is actually the one who could lose Arizona — a state Republican presidential candidates have consistently won for generations.

The interview came after Flake's much noticed confrontation with Trump. In a private meeting with Republican senators last week, Trump planned to mend fences with fellow Republicans. Instead, he criticized several, including Flake, who has criticized Trump's views on immigration.

"Donald Trump pointed at me and said, 'You've been very critical of me,' " Flake said. "And I said, 'Yes I have.' Then I mentioned the judge comments [Trump's repeated accusations that Judge Gonzalo Curiel was biased because of his Mexican heritage, which some leading Republicans branded "racist"] and his comments about those across the border being rapists, and said that we can't hope to win the White House using language like that. He reminded me that he was doing very well in Arizona, and [said] that I wouldn't do so well in Arizona in my re-election. I reminded him that I wasn't up for re-election this year."

Flake said it's actually Trump who faces danger in November — and he offered reasons why Trump "could lose" Arizona.

This is the flip side of Trump's unconventional approach to the presidential race. Trump has argued he can win Democratic-leaning states like Pennsylvania, but his stances could also shake up Republican-leaning states. The news site FiveThirtyEight finds Arizona to be one of many red states where Trump, at this stage, seems to be performing worse than Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.

Republicans are already considered to have a disadvantage in the electoral votes that will decide this fall's election. Losing any red states would further lengthen Trump's odds.

To be sure, it is early to say that Arizona is truly in danger for the GOP. Democrats have dreamed of winning the state in past elections, only to fall short. And in 2010 the state passed a much debated law to crack down on illegal immigration. Arizona's long border with Mexico would seem to make it fertile territory for Trump. Its famous politicians include Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who made his name in part campaigning against illegal immigration.

But in our talk, Flake argued that Arizona has learned from its experience. Here he makes his case:

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