How Would Flake Fare In N.H.? Strategists Weigh In

When Sen. Jeff Flake forced the delay of a final confirmation vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and ushered in an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, it proved momentous. For Democrats, it was a breath of bipartisanship. For Republicans, a reckless capitulation to the other party. 

But as the Arizona senator touched down in New Hampshire on Monday amid mounting 2020 presidential primary buzz, some Republican strategists are asking whether Flake’s action during the Kavanaugh nomination process will even matter.

It could cement his reputation as a peacemaker, the last defender of the dying era of civility, a narrative he pitched to an audience at St. Anselm College Monday evening. Or it could further irritate Republicans who saw a safe bet to transform the Supreme Court in Kavanaugh, and a careless and a self-centered disrupter in Flake. 

More likely, Republican analysts say, it won’t change anyone’s mind. 

To Republicans, voting no and bucking what for Republicans is a near-consensus choice on the Supreme Court could be the ultimate tactical error, strategists said. Whatever allies he makes on the left and middle would not likely stick by his side in 2020, many warned.

“When it comes to Supreme Court judges of the federal judiciary, Republicans of all wings of the party are pretty much on the same page,” said Ford O’Connell, a former aide to the McCain presidential campaign in 2008. “… And I don’t see the Democratic party base, even in a presidential primary, giving him the time of day.”

Read more from Ethan DeWitt at the Concord Monitor

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Analysis & Political Strategy