After finishing a town hall on tax reform in Mesa, AZ, Senator Jeff Flake was having a casual conversation with his friend, Mesa Mayor John Giles. The senator offered the opinion that the Republican Party would be “toast” if it became the party of Donald Trump and Roy Moore.
Giles then joked that Flake should run for president and “point out what an idiot this guy is,” referring to Donald Trump.
“[If we] become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump, we are toast,” Flake is overheard saying to Mesa, Arizona, Mayor John Giles.
From the local station’s cut, it isn’t entirely clear how Flake began the sentence, but Flake’s office told the station he used the words, “if we” before the hot mic picked up his comments. KNXV’s camera began to roll mid-sentence.
It isn’t the first time Flake has criticized Moore, Mr. Trump or the Republican Party as a whole. Flake had criticized the president for weeks before announcing he will not run for re-election in 2018, saying he “will not be complicit or silent” about the direction of the GOP. He has called the president’s behavior “dangerous” for democracy.
After multiple women came forward accusing Moore of inappropriately pursuing or sexually touching them when they were teens, Flake said he would “run to the polling place to vote for the Democrat” if he was an Alabama voter.
It’s a good thing that Flake isn’t running for re-election. He is seriously out of touch with the new political reality in the age of Trump.
Personal scandals in politics are not what they used to be. They are no longer completely disqualifying as far as winning or losing an election. This has been true of Democrats for decades. The Dems always seem to rally around members touched by scandal, saving them politically. Even today, most Democratic members don’t think Senator Al Franken should resign for sexually harassing a woman in 2007. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Franken ran for president in 2020 despite the allegations.
Roy Moore may be a sexual deviant, but that apparently won’t stand in the way of his supporters rallying to his defense. The Alabama Republican Party is standing behind Moore, as is the sitting Republican governor. In one of the most conservative states in the union, where GOP candidates pride themselves on promoting “family values,” the candidate at the top of the ticket is accused of pawing teenage girls. The idea that a GOP candidate could survive those charges used to be unthinkable. But in the age of Trump, the accusations don’t matter because either they’re not believed or GOP voters see the more important issue as defeating the Democrat.
Flake is clueless about this transformation, as he is about off-year elections being solely a turnout contest where the base of the Republican Party must be energized to vote. Failing to embrace Donald Trump — and especially, criticizing him — will doom most GOP candidates to defeat.
Like it or not, Trump is the leader of the party and is the only politician that can rouse the base and get them to the polls. Those Republicans who run away from Trump will find it an uphill climb to re-election.