Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, the most vulnerable Republican in 2018, will not run for a third term after facing months of fury from both Democrats and Trump loyalists.
Republicans just lost their second Senate incumbent for next year.
Jeff Flake, the junior senator from Arizona, has thrown yet another monkey wrench into the Republicans’ playing field in the 2018 midterms by announcing he will not run for re-election, saying, “The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I’m not willing to take.”
Shortly after his announcement, Flake gave a fiery speech on the Senate floor essentially saying he was tired of surrendering his vote and his morals to Trump.
“None of this is normal,” Flake told his colleagues. “And what do we, as United States senators, have to say about it?”
Flake continued. “Because politics can make us silent when we should speak,” he said, “and silence can equal complicity. I have children and grandchildren to answer to. And so Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent.”
WATCH: GOP Sen. Jeff Flake: “I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent.” pic.twitter.com/Uoc3qgYSun
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 24, 2017
Flake may also have been stretched to breaking point after months of Trump’s allies branding him public enemy number one.
Although Flake has voted with Trump on essentially every issue, his public statements criticizing Trump’s leadership have enraged Trump’s white supremacist backers like Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon and tech billionaire Robert Mercer, who have waged war against Flake.
In August, Trump tweeted that Flake is “WEAK on crime, borders, and a non-factor in the Senate.” As a result, Flake has been hemorrhaging support among Republicans, with recent polls showing him down almost 30 points in his own primary.
Flake’s exit clears the way for Trump allies’ preferred candidate, former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward. A tea party activist, conspiracy theorist, and Trump supporter who once tried to abolish all gun laws in Arizona and pals around with Alex Jones, Ward was consolidating the Arizona GOP vote even before Flake gave up.
The only person left who can stop a Trump takeover in Arizona is Kyrsten Sinema, a Democratic congresswoman and former triathlete who was already soaring in polls due to Democrats’ own fury with Flake on health care.
The Republican Party is becoming so toxic that they are beginning to clear their own field, with incumbents fleeing in ever larger numbers. Flake’s departure is yet another blow to them, and yet another opportunity for the American people.