"If he plays his cards right, he has the perfect path to the presidency," Democrat operative on Jeff Flake in 2011.
Senator Jeff Flake has been in the news recently. Not for good reasons. He is a conservative with a conscience per his new book, which in 2017 means sniping at President Trump and doing everything to maintain the current system's desired policies. Flake's star has fallen, and whispers of primarying him in '18 spread. The words from 2011 that Democrat operative said have long since expired. At an 18% approval rating in his home state, Flake is toast.
The set up was there for Senator Flake. Flake is a telegenic, well spoken father of five with conservative bona fides for the base. As the 2010 Tea Party wave election crested incredibly high, the future for fiscally conservative GOPers looked good as the Obama deficits were piling up. Flake also had before him, statewide seats opening up that he could pick and choose from for the good of his constituents, his party and himself. Arizona is a safely red state that has good visibility due to the growth of the Sun Belt as well as it being a flashpoint for immigration. Another element playing to his strength, which the Midwest politicians will possibly enjoy in the near future, is that there is the chance that his Mormonism could help in the purple areas of the West that Hispanic immigration is putting just outside of GOP reach like Colorado and New Mexico.
The GOP is not a true party, existing to keep the sham democracy going and be caretakers when the Left goes too far. It does owe something to constituents and Flake was badly failing his. Phoenix is a SCALE-apocalyse, but it had some good city planning. The problem of the city planning of the '70s/'80s is that no one foresaw the tsunami of Mexican immigration into the state. Phoenix would be a better city if only the border had been sealed.
Flake's path to the presidency was an easy one. All he had to do was take note of the citizen uprising when W and McCain tried to ram through immigration reform and the nationwide disgust with the national status quo that set in after the 2005 W peak for current direction. The votes for change keep voting as if voting harder will work. Flake failed to see the disgust could be something to act on. Flake misread his party, his base, and the way to zig while his party zagged that Trump seized on.
In 2011, Flake could have read polls that showed national support for the Arizona immigration laws. These laws enjoyed support despite media demonization. For the 2012 election season, Flake still would run for the Senate as the Democrats were fielding a solid candidate for the newly open seat in 2012. Flake plays good soldier and holds the seat. If Flake simply slides over to the immigration hawk wing with Sessions rather than join the Gang of 8, his path is as follows.
Flake wins the Senate seat, and surveys the landscape, publicly rejecting the Senate Gang immigration bill. Instead of it just being old Senator Jeff Sessions, suddenly immigration restrictionism and patriotism has a younger, handsome face for every single television appearance to debate the issue. It becomes Flake's thing even if Sessions, Grassley and their aides are the real muscle behind it.
Flake's next move would have been the smart reading of the tea leaves that he failed to do. As the Arizona governorship opens up, Flake who protected the GOP seat in '12 versus a tough challenger, returns to Arizona to proactively enforce immigration as much as he can. Seeding the ground for outsider status despite being a long tenured DC creature, Flake could say, "I am returning home to take care of my people as the cesspool that is DC is toxic and unmanageable now". Something along those lines of "DC is evil"... despite being there nearly two decades.
Flake could have been governor Flake in 2015 with an eye on the border. Had he made these moves, 2016 was not the presidential round for him, but he could be the perfect heir to a President Trump as nationalist Trumpism takes form and the border and Mexican integration/removal/friction become major flashpoints. His tenure as governor would end in 2022, and he could write a book and softly campaign before the real primary season began as the heir to Trumpism with the border bona fides to prove it as governor of Arizona. Even without Trump, he'd have had 2020 as the perfect opportunity.
Instead, Flake misread the base. Flake is not a creature of his donors, as evaluating his donor base shows Club For Growth as a big donor but no base of money he desperately needed once ensconsed after the '12 election. Flake even misread his state. If the flood continues, he has maybe an election or two left in him before the Mexicans boot him out in pure ethnic bloc voting.
He coulda been a contendah but so goes many political what ifs.