Former Arizona senator Jeff Flake is trading his long-shot presidential ambitions for a television gig.
Flake retired from the Senate earlier this month after he declined to run for a second term, blaming the politics required to win a GOP primary in the era of President Trump. On Tuesday, CBS unveiled on its morning program that Flake would join the network as a contributor.
During his appearance on CBS This Morning, Flake broke some news: He is not running for president.
After teasing a presidential run in one form or another – a memoir and political manifesto, Conscience of a Conservative; a trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire; the stock “I’ve not ruled anything out” answer – Flake at long last ruled out a 2020 primary challenge to Trump during his CBS appearance.
“You thought about running in 2020. Are you going to run?” host John Dickerson asked Flake.
“I’ve always said that I do hope that there is a Republican who challenges the president in the primary,” Flake said. “I still hope that somebody does, but that somebody won’t be me. I will not be a candidate.”
When asked whether he looked into running, Flake said, “I think anybody who’s in the Senate looks at that at some point … It’s a difficult path anyway. The RNC and the president’s campaign are now melded. They’re trying to do everything they can to squelch any opposition.”
He said he hopes that some Republicans do end up running against Trump. “I think that that’s healthy,” Flake said.
Political commentator jobs at the major TV networks are typically cushy landing pads for retired elected officials who still want to maintain a public profile.
Flake’s fellow Trump critic John Kasich, a former Republican governor of Ohio, recently signed onto a cable news job, too. He joined CNN as a contributor earlier this month.
In November, Arizonans elected former congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema to replace Flake in the Senate. It was the first Democratic victory in an Arizona Senate race in 30 years.
This weekend’s election of the state GOP chair illustrated the huge gulf that now exists between Flake and the Arizona Republican Party.
Kelli Ward, a former state senator and vociferous Flake opponent who challenged him in the 2018 primary before he announced he would not run for re-election, was elected to lead the state party on Saturday. She defeated the incumbent Jonathan Lines.