Wednesday, October 25, 2017


President Trump is getting a lot of credit for making officeholders like Bob Corker and Jeff Flake unwelcome in the Republican Party -- but Flake, at least, was unpopular in his home state of Arizona long before Trump came along.

Erick Erickson thinks it's because Flake, a very right-wing member of the House a decade ago, stopped being conservatively correct.
Going all the way back to 2005, Flake had a consistently conservative record on fiscal issues. He was one of the very few congressmen supported by the Club [for Growth] with a lifetime 100% score. He literally was the candidate people pointed to as the model Club For Growth candidate.

But once in the Senate he gave all the fiscal conservatives the middle finger.

In 2013, the Club For Growth’s model candidate had an 84% score on their score card, below Mitch McConnell.

In 2014, Flake went up to 90%, but was still outperformed by porkers like Chuck Grassley who had a 91% score that year but, unlike Flake, an 80% life time score. In fact, seven senators with lifetime scores lower than Jeff Flake’s outperformed Flake on the Club’s scorecard that year.

2015 was an improvement for Flake, who went up to 93%, but in 2016 his score was just 84%.
Really -- an 84% rating from a right-wing group is a sign of unforgivable apostasy? Well, this is the GOP we're talking about, so sure. (Erickson goes on to note that Flake's Heritage Foundation numbers dropped from 97% to 59%.)

But didn't Flake's opinion-poll numbers start to drop only when he began criticizing Trump? No, that's not the case. Flake's Senate term began in January 2013, and by March 2014, more than a year before Trump announced his candidacy, Flake had a 27% job approval rating in Arizona, according to Public Policy Polling. Disapproval was 47%. A couple of months before that, as the Arizona Republic reported, a Susquehanna poll showed him with 30% approval and 57% disapproval.

Why? According to the Republic, Flake was doing things to alienate his right-wing, Tea Party base (which jibes with what Erickson writes) while not winning converts among liberals and moderates:
When Jeff Flake moved from the House to the Senate a year ago, many observers expected the longtime fiscal hawk to fall in with hard-line conservatives such as Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

In fact, Flake, R-Ariz., charted a more moderate path over the past 12 months, one that at times has enraged his supporters and surprised his critics but also left him in the middle of an uncomfortable crossfire between the right and the left.

Flake distanced himself from his past support of comprehensive immigration reform during his bitter 2012 GOP primary. But, once elected, he wasted no time joining the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that wrote last year’s Senate-passed bill, which included a pathway to citizenship for most of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who have settled in the United States.

Flake’s vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, drew accusations from social conservatives that he had broken a campaign promise.

His rejection of the “tea party”-sanctioned strategy to try to defund President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law riled the Senate Conservatives Fund, an influential group that helped elect him to the Senate. And his opposition to a bipartisan compromise on background checks for gun purchases drew outrage from the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Throughout his Senate career, Flake has been far too conservative to appeal to non-Republicans -- for example, his Planned Parenthood rating is 0% most years -- but while he's a Kochite (he has a 98% lifetime score from Americans for Prosperity), he's unwilling to vote in lockstep on every last conservative hot-button issue, particularly immigration, so he's seen as a RINO. This was true long before Trump came along.

Once Flake started criticizing Trump, his fate was sealed -- by this summer, according to Public Policy Polling, he had an approval rating in Arizona of only 18%, and he seemed likely to lose a Republican primary in a blowout. But being a right-winger 85% or 90% of the time would have been a tough sell no matter what -- it's too much for non-conservatives, yet it's not enough for conservatives. That's not Trump's doing -- it's the nature of the right. Deviations from orthodoxy are not allowed.

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