Trump aides worry he hurt hopes of defeating Flake

The president gave a shout-out to Kelli Ward, who even some White House aides believe would be a weak challenger.

By Alex Isenstadt | POLITICO

President Donald Trump upended the Arizona Senate race on Thursday by signaling support for an underdog primary challenger — a move that went against the wishes of his advisers and potentially undercut their efforts to unseat GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.

The president gave a shout-out on Twitter to Kelli Ward, a conservative former state senator running to take out Flake in a primary next year. Flake, of course, is a vocal Trump critic who refused to endorse the real estate mogul during the 2016 campaign and recently published an anti-Trump manifesto in which he accuses his party of enabling the Trump presidency. Trump, in turn, has threatened to spend millions to unseat Flake.

“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a nonfactor in Senate. He’s toxic!” Trump tweeted.

Trump aides were taken aback by the tweet. Many of them are deeply skeptical about Ward’s ability to defeat Flake. In 2016, Ward received 39 percent of the vote in an unsuccessful effort to unseat GOP Sen. John McCain. More recently, she came under fire for saying that McCain should step down from the Senate “as quickly as possible” after he was diagnosed with brain cancer.


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