GOFFSTOWN — U.S. Sen Jeff Flake of Arizona said during a visit to the Granite State on Friday that he has not ruled out a run for President in 2020.
“It has not been in my plan to run for President, but I have not ruled it out. I hope that someone does run in the Republican primary — somebody to challenge the President,” said Flake. “I think the Republicans want to be reminded what it means to be a traditional, decent Republican, and what the party stands for … I don’t know who it will be. I think the odds that it will be me are long, but I am not ruling it out.”
Flake, who is retiring from the Senate after his term is up, wasted no time criticizing President Donald Trump during his appearance at Politics & Eggs at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College.
“We must run away from this brand of poisonous politics,” he said, stressing the need to take higher ground while calling on a GOP challenger against Trump in 2020.
Flake described Trump as an erratic leader who has replaced the state department with Twitter and who lives in a golden palace while away from the White House.
“As a lifelong Republican, the health of my party is of grave concern to me,” he told the crowd who greeted him with a standing ovation following his speech.
According to Flake, the conservative party has lost its grasp on the meaning of being a conservative and is being told to ignore what the President says and instead pay attention to what he does.
“I stand before you today the rarest of species — the American conservative. The Americanus NeverTrumpus … It is like an invasion of the body snatchers. What have we done with all of the conservatives?” he said. “… We came to a fork in the road back there somewhere and we went the wrong way.”
Still, Flake said the nation will get through this moment and use these hard lessons to become stronger. And when it does, it will be refreshing, he said.
Flake pounded Trump during his speech — the first Politics and Eggs event of 2018 at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
“New Hampshire has a long tradition of political and civic engagement, and we are always very happy to take part in that process,” said Steven DiSalvo, president of Saint Anselm College.
Flake’s visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state came just a few days before Trump is scheduled to visit Manchester on Monday.
“As a political movement we have been out of our minds lately,” said Flake, saying a true leader should have the confidence to use experts to help guide them.
There is a long road to recovery, according to Flake, who maintained that the collapse of party principles and the narrowing of its base did not happen overnight and will not be fixed soon.
Leadership will be restored when the nation finds a leader who assumes that Democrats and Republicans are not enemies, but competing friends, he said.
“There is nothing that will be more vital to expunge from the American record than this frenzied attack on the truth,” said Flake, adding what will be remembered of Trump is his war on objective reality and his reflexive impulse to speak falsely — a character trait that Flake contended is absolutely devastating for an American President.
On Friday, the Saint Anselm College Survey Center shared results of a recent poll of registered voters that shows in New Hampshire, 21 percent of Republicans believe the country is on the wrong track and 23 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view of the President.
“There is definitely a chance for Republican candidates to challenge the President,” said Neil Levesque, executive director of the NHIOP.