PHOENIX — Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said his state may vote for the Democratic presidential candidate if presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump continues with his divisive rhetoric.
“He’ll have trouble in Arizona if he continues to stake out the position that he has staked out,” Flake told MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday.
The New York billionaire was again criticized by the Republican Party over the weekend after he said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s Mexican heritage means he cannot fairly hear a lawsuit involving Trump University.
Trump has been making controversial statements from the outset of his campaign, including proposing a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, building a multi-billion dollar wall on the Mexican border paid for by the Mexican government and the need to halt illegal immigration at risk of losing the United States as we know it.
Flake said Trump’s comments about Curiel are a “new level” and he hopes the unpredictable Trump takes back what he’s said because “it’s offensive. It really is.”
Trump has variously referred to Curiel as Spanish, Mexican and Hispanic and has called the judge “a hater of Donald Trump.”
The inflammatory rhetoric may play well during primary season, but Flake said Trump will have a lot of work to do to top either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in November.
“There’s a big difference between winning a primary and winning a general election,” he said.
Flake said, unless Trump comes back to align with the party’s broader base instead of its more extreme fringes, Arizona could be blue after the November election.
“Right-thinking Republicans want somebody who is serious, for example, on immigration reform,” Flake said. “Saying we’re going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it is not a serious proposal.”
While Flake has said Trump would not be his first choice for the nomination — “nor my 17th” — it’s too late to bring in a third-party candidate. The GOP will have to stick with Trump.
“We have what we have,” he said. “We’re not in a good situation.”