- Robert Schmidt Bloomberg News
President Donald Trump is likely to face a challenge from an independent candidate, and possibly a fellow Republican, if he runs for a second term, as voters thirst for a more centrist alternative, Sen. Jeff Flake said Sunday.
"If the president is running for re-election, if he continues on the path that he's on, that's gonna leave a huge swath of voters looking for something else," said the Arizona Republican, who plans to leave the Senate at the end of 2018.
Flake, who's emerged as one of the president's most vocal critics in the party and has drawn sharp criticism from Trump as a result, demurred when asked if he might mount one himself.
"I don't rule anything out, but it's not in my plans" to run in 2020, he said on ABC's "This Week" He said he was concerned that if Democrats fielded a candidate from the party's left wing, such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, many Americans would be turned off by both sides.
Republicans, Flake said, risk becoming marginalized: "When you look at some of the audiences cheering for Republicans sometimes you look out there and you say, 'Those are the spasms of a dying party.' "
"We're appealing to older white men, and there are just a limited number of them, and anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy," Flake said.
Trump has tweeted in the past that Flake isn't running for re-election because he "had zero chance of being elected" and has nicknamed his nemesis "Sen. Jeff Flake(y)."
In a Twitter message on Sunday before Flake's comments were aired, Trump suggested his own support is underreported, despite opinion polls showing his job approval below 40 percent.
"The Fake News refuses to talk about how Big and how Strong our BASE is. They show Fake Polls just like they report Fake News," Trump tweeted, minutes before addressing U.S. troops in a pre-Christmas video conference call from his club in Palm Beach, Florida.