Jeff Flake is trapped in political purgatory.
The mild-mannered Arizona Republican is nowhere near ready to support Donald Trump, whose rhetoric toward Latinos and policy positions are diametrically opposed to Flake’s long-held views. But Flake insists he will never, absolutely, under no circumstances vote for Hillary Clinton — leaving the first-term senator in a political no-man’s land come November.
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Flake earnestly says he wants to get to a place where he could vote for Trump — and as Flake deliberates publicly, he’s drawing criticism from the right for his waffling.
But for now, what is someone like Jeff Flake to do?
“There’s one sure thing: I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be president,” Flake said in a recent phone interview with POLITICO. “I’m not in the ‘Never Trump’ movement.”
While Flake isn’t the only Republican struggling with Trump’s unorthodox campaign, the real estate mogul’s blistering attacks on immigrants is a particularly potent sting for Flake, who has long worked on the issue and is facing a 2018 reelection bid in a state that’s rapidly diversifying, especially with Latinos. And for a senator known as a pragmatic deal-maker, Trump’s scorched-earth run doesn’t leave much for Flake to latch on to, policy-wise.
So the genial Flake has become one of Trump’s sharpest critics during the unpredictable 2016 presidential campaign. He’s confronted the GOP nominee in private, while openly musing that he would prefer to mow his lawn than witness Trump’s coronation at the party’s national convention in Cleveland.
But unlike other hardened Trump antagonists such as Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Flake is searching for any clue that the wealthy real estate mogul may be moderating his tone and policy stances. One encouraging sign for him was when Trump dismissed the crowd’s “Lock …