Outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is leaving Congress in the coming days, but he isn’t yet crossing a presidential run off his list of possibilities.
In a CNN interview Friday, the politico initially beat around the bush when prompted by the network’s Jim Acosta to say whether he’d launch a 2020 campaign.
“You know, there are others that seem more willing than I am,” Flake said. “I’ve been doing this for 18 years now. It’s nice to look forward to a little break, but somebody does need to challenge the president.”
That’s when Acosta doubled down on his question, pushing the senator to offer more of an answer on his future plans.
“Like I said, I haven’t ruled it out,” Flake said. “I’m a long way from there, but somebody needs to and I think that the country needs to be reminded of what it means to be conservative, certainly on the Republican side, and what it means to be decent as well, because we need a lot more of that in our politics.”
While Flake has parted with President Donald Trump over his rhetoric and behavior, he’s maintained a staunchly conservative voting record, and appears to be in search of a candidate who will restore tradition to the GOP.
Calling for civility in Washington, Flake said “both parties need to be rational and sane and try to govern rather than simply put forward the politics of resentment and anger.”
If the right can’t work out its image issues, Flake warned, the party could be “on its way out” without the realization that it needs to expand its appeal beyond its base.
Flake, who has had an openly tumultuous relationship with Trump, criticized him for blaming Democrats for the federal government shutdown, which has now entered its eighth day as Congress remains in a standoff over a spending bill including money to build a border wall.
“Anytime you stand and say ‘I own the shutdown,’ then you own it,” he told Acosta, adding,”‘Shutdown 101’ tells you ‘shift the blame if you can.’ And when the president immediately said, ‘I’ll take the blame,’ then he’s got it.”