Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

After U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) decided not to run for re-election, I have seen a lot of people credit President Donald Trump or former White House Strategist and Breitbart Executive Chairman Steve Bannon with the win.

Not so fast.

We have to consider what is behind Flake’s stunning unpopularity. I wrote last month about the Arizona U.S. Senate race in relation to U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and U.S. Senator Luther Strange’s (R-AL) upcoming exit.

Other incumbent Republican Senators face primary challenges favored by grassroots conservatives. Kelli Ward, who lost her primary challenge to U.S. Senator John McCain in 2016, hopes to beat U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Public Policy Polling showed Flake with dismal 18 percent approval rating among all Arizonans while 63 percent disapproved. It wasn’t much better from those who supported Trump (whom Flake has publicly criticized) with only 22 percent approval and 63 percent disapproval. A JMC Analytics poll last month showed not only a dismal 22 percent approval rating among Republicans with 67 percent disapproval but also Ward leads Flake by 26 points – 47 percent to 21 percent.

Flake made the right decision to drop out because he was headed to an embarrassing loss in the Republican primary.

Attributing Flake’s unpopularity to his opposition to Trump is pretty shallow. A better explanation is that he was not a conservative and he alienated the Republican base in Arizona not only with his opposition to Trump but, more importantly, through his voting record in the U.S. Senate.

Conservative Review gave Flake an F with a liberty score of 53 percent. Flake received a better grade from Heritage Action during the 114th Congress with 67 percent (a D). They gave him a 59% (an F) in the 113th Congress. His last term as a member of the House he received a 97% (an A).

So he took a leftward turn upon entering the Senate in 2013, and the base noticed.

Some of his more notable votes:

  • Flake was one of 10 Republican Senators who voted to confirm Loretta Lynch for Attorney General.
  • He voted against the First Amendment Defense Act sponsored by U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
  • He voted for the $1.1 Trillion Cromnibus spending bill in 2015.
  • He voted to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.
  • He voted for the Gang of 8 amnesty bill.
  • He voted for S.2114 that increased Russia’s power over the International Monetary Fund.
  • He voted to give legitimacy to President Obama’s executive amnesty.
  • He voted to suspend the debt ceiling (S. 540) in 2014.
  • He voted to confirm Janet Yellen as Chair of the Federal Reserve.
  • He voted for the Ryan-Murray spending increase in 2013.
  • He voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would trample on religious liberty.
  • He was a no-show on two cloture votes that struck defunding Obamacare from the 2013 continuing resolution.
  • He voted for the lame duck continuing resolution.
  • He voted for the “Draft Our Daughters” Defense Bill.
  • In 2015 he voted for the Continuing Resolution that continued to fund Planned Parenthood.

So no, Jeff Flake’s betrayal of the base that put him in the U.S. Senate is what caused his expected Flake out. It would have been likely with or without his support of Trump. His awful voting record put him in jeopardy with a voter base that has little patience with broken promises.

2 comments
  1. Flake’s score from Heritage Action (even after a slight, recent drop) is still 11 points HIGHER than the GOP average for Senators, and higher than both John Thune & James Inhofe (!), not to mention Ernst/Grassley.

    Which is to say we should be more critical of how these scores are calculated. (*A lot of them are a joke.*)

    1. The Heritage Action scorecard is pretty straightforward based on bills they have taken a position on. Conservative Review’s isn’t quite as transparent. All of the Senators you mention have some real stinker votes on their record from a conservative perspective.

      I like Grassley and Ernst and I believe they both are ideologically conservative. Both have some good votes as well, but they do not have a consistent conservative voting record.

      Obviously, since you’re a centrist you feel differently and probably don’t agree with Heritage Action’s position on a number of the bills they include in the scorecard.

      If I can’t hold a Senator accountable based on their voting record then I don’t know what I can really hold them accountable for. I’m a conservative. I expect Senators who claim to be conservatives to vote conservatively the majority of the time. I’m not naive, however, I’m not an all or nothing guy. I just think if you’re going to compromise you need to make sure you’re not the only one compromising. Senate Republican leadership haven’t been very good at making deals and unfortunately, most of the caucus goes along to get along which is wrong. They always seem to come up on the short end of the stick and that frustrates the base.

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