Authored for PolicyMic.
Speaking on her radio show last week, Laura Ingraham threatened to move to Arizona to challenge Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) for the Republican nomination in 2018. “Living up to his last name,” Ingraham said, Flake violated a promise his spokeswoman made to Breitbart.com that he would consider voting to close a loophole in the Senate’s immigration legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to immediately receive state and local welfare. In apparent deference to the establishment wing of his party, Flake reneged on the promise.
When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered an amendment in committee that would have closed the loophole, Flake joined fellow Republicans Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and all the committee’s Democrats in opposing Cruz. As Breitbart had previously reported, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had been heard referring to the Democrats’ apparent successful wooing of Flake and Graham while speaking on another issue, saying, “Do our Republicans have a pass on this one if they want?”
Some suggest that Arizona is becoming more liberal, having witnessed a 46.3% increase in the Hispanic population between 2000 and 2010. Additionally, Arizona has been a prime destination for Californians fleeing their own ruinous economy, with nearly 50,000 moving from California to Arizona in 2011.
Yet those dynamics have yet to reflect themselves in electoral outcomes. In 2012, Arizona voted for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama 53% to 44%, with eleven counties going to Romney and four to Obama. The state went to McCain in 2008 by a margin of 54% to 45%, and George W. Bush in 2004 by 55% to 44% . The county breakdown was the same each time. The last Democrat to win a presidential election in Arizona was Bill Clinton in 1996.
Flake won his seat in 2012 comfortably, taking it by five percentage points. In the days to pass, Flake seems to have taken some pointers from McCain by rejecting his own party in trying to appease the opposition. The result is that few approve of his performance. As of last month, just 57% of Republicans, 25% of independents and 10% of Democrats in Arizona approved Flake’s job performance. That left him with overall approval of 32% and disapproval of 52%.
Coincidentally, Cruz has far outpaced Flake using the same metric. In Texas, 39% of voters recently approved of the job Cruz is doing to just 28% who disapprove.
Of course, Cruz has been a dynamic leader. In his first six weeks in the Senate, Cruz joined the filibuster against President Obama’s drone policy; earned boisterous criticism from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on guns; and led the investigation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during confirmation hearings.
Cruz’s demeanor has even garnered grumbles from the senior Republicans to whom Flake seemingly pledged obedience. Graham predicted in February that Cruz’s attitude would get him nowhere: “The one thing I will say to any new senator — you’re going to be respected if you can throw a punch but you also have to prove you can do a deal.”
Though Texas is a conservative state, Cruz pushes the envelope of the possible, stands on principle, and leads by example. He has enjoyed a correspondingly high approval rating.
Arizona has two lukewarm conservative senators who seem to stand for nothing. Flake, desperate to find someone else to lead him, appears to be losing the respect of his constituents. Changing demographics alone might not be enough to end Republican dominance in the state, but Flake’s lack of leadership will certainly help.