Trump Met with Potential Flake Challengers

President Trump continues to amp up the pressure on Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), “savaging the Arizona Republican on Twitter and holding a private meeting with several of his prospective primary opponents,” Politico reports.

“Before taking the stage in Phoenix on Tuesday evening for a campaign-style rally, the president huddled backstage with state Treasurer Jeff DeWit and former state GOP Chairman Robert Graham. Both are considering running against Flake, an outspoken critic of the president who recently published an anti-Trump book, Conscience of a Conservative.”

Top Trump Donor Ponies Up to Take Out Flake

“One of Donald Trump’s most generous political benefactors is providing a six-figure donation to a super PAC devoted to unseating Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who has been fiercely critical of the president,” Politico reports.

“Robert Mercer, a reclusive hedge fund billionaire who was intimately involved in Trump’s rise and helped to bankroll his 2016 campaign, is contributing $300,000 to a super PAC supporting former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who is challenging Flake in a Republican primary next year.”

Flake Will Take on GOP Rift In New Book

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) “faces political challenges from both sides in seeking re-election next year: On the left, emboldened Democrats are aggressively recruiting candidates to run against him. On the right, allies of President Trump are devising ways to punish Mr. Flake for his outspoken rejection of Mr. Trump last year,” the New York Times reports.

“Yet Mr. Flake, seemingly undaunted, has secretly planned an unconventional campaign kickoff that risks intensifying both threats: Working privately, and largely without the knowledge of political advisers, he has written a book that amounts to an ideological manifesto for his own version of conservatism.”

Three people who have seen the manuscript “said it would likely inflame debate about the direction of the Republican Party.”

McCain’s Former Primary Rival Wants Him to Resign

Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) former primary rival, Kelli Ward (R), urged the ailing senator to step aside after his diagnosis of brain cancer, the Washington Post reports.

Said Ward: “As a Christian, I know there can always be miracles. But the likelihood that John McCain is going to be able to come back to the Senate and be at full force for the people of our state and the people of the United States is low.”

She went on to say that she hoped to be appointed to fill his seat should he leave office.

White House Plays Hardball with Flake

Politico: “The White House has met with at least three actual or prospective primary challengers to Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake in recent weeks, a reflection of Donald Trump’s strained relations with the senator and the latest sign of the president’s willingness to play hardball with lawmakers who cross him — even Republican incumbents.”

“Flake, a longtime Trump critic who refused to endorse the president during the 2016 campaign, is one of a handful of undecided Republican votes on the Obamacare repeal effort. He’s also one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in 2018.”

Playbook: “If Trump backs a challenger to Flake, it will be a big, big deal. The White House merely meeting with candidates is certain to raise ire in the Senate Republican Conference. Loyalty is a big deal in the Senate.”

Democrats Launch Early Attacks on Two Senators

“Liberals are already beginning to target Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)) and Dean Heller (R-NV) with attack ads as Democrats look to soften up their only two realistic targets ahead of a difficult 2018 Senate map,” The Hill reports.

“Democrats are starting GOP attacks early in a cycle where they’re mostly playing defense and trying to block Republicans from flipping enough seats to achieve a 60-seat, filibuster-proof Senate majority. Republicans are defending just eight seats in 2018, while Democrats are defending 23 seats, plus another two held by independent allies.”

McCain and Feingold Now Riding a Big Money Wave

Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Russ Feingold are now benefiting from the campaign donations they once fought so fiercely against, Politico reports.

“Supporters of Sen. McCain (R-AZ), seeking a sixth term after 30 years in the Senate, have boosted his campaign through a super PAC specifically designed to run ads on his behalf, financed almost entirely by six-figure donations from Wall Street titans and other corporate executives. Feingold, the former Senate Democrat trying to reclaim his old seat in Wisconsin, has been boosted by outside groups financed through ‘dark money’ committees that don’t reveal their donors.”