Former Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake is ruling out a presidential primary bid against President Trump, finally shutting down more than a year of speculation stemming from his repeated criticism of Trump while in office.
Flake made the announcement during an appearance on “CBS This Morning,” where he made his debut as a network contributor.
“I have always said that I do hope that there is a Republican who challenges the president in the primary,” he said on Tuesday.
“I still hope that somebody does, but that somebody won’t be me. I will not be a candidate.”
Flake was perhaps Trump’s biggest critic in the GOP-controlled Senate, taking to the Senate floor on numerous occasions to frame the president as hijacking conservative values and his political party. He also took that message on the road to promote his book “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.”
The tenuous relationship prompted numerous dust-ups during Trump’s first two years in office, and Flake decided not to seek reelection amid rough polling that showed he’d have a tough time winning a Republican primary because of that criticism.
But even as he readied for the end of his Senate term, Flake kept the door to challenging Trump in the 2020 presidential primary cracked open. He repeatedly declined to rule out a presidential bid, as recently as late last year, before ultimately making his announcement on Tuesday.
With Flake out, the already short list of Trump’s possible presidential primary challengers continues to atrophy. Former Ohio gov. John Kasich has continued to tease a potential bid, and the New York Times reported that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is set to meet with some prominent anti-Trump Republicans in the near future.