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Jeff Flake says a Republican needs to challenge Trump in 2020 — and it might very well be him

Former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) says that a Republican needs to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020. And he's not ruling out a bid, himself. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Outgoing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) says that a Republican needs to step up and challenge President Donald Trump in 2020, and he's not ruling out a bid of his own.

What are the details?

In a Friday interview with Politico and The Hill, Flake said that he believes others who would be good Republican contenders against the incumbent president include Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R).

"I've not ruled it out. I've not ruled it in," Flake said of his own presidential bid. "Just, somebody needs to run on the Republican side."

Flake said that he believes Trump and his legacy will tarnish the Republican Party, and added that it's time for Republicans to be reminded "what it means to be decent."

"I hope somebody does [run], just to remind Republicans what it means to be conservative and what it means to be decent," Flake explained. "We've got to bring that back. You can whip up the base for a cycle or two, but it wears thin. Anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy."

What happened to Flake?

In October 2017, Flake announced that he would not seek re-election after releasing a book with less-than-flattering passages about the president.

The book, titled "Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle," took direct aim at Trump's fiery rhetoric.

On Wednesday, Trump took credit for forcing Flake to avoid seeking another term as Arizona senator.

"I retired [Flake]. I’m very proud of it, I did the country a great service," Trump said, after the midterm elections.

What did Flake say?

During his Politico-The Hill interview, Flake admitted that Trump wasn't far off with his boast.

"In a sense, he did [force me out]," Flake admitted. "The price to win a Republican primary was to stand on a stage with the president over and over while he insults minorities and ridicules both Republicans and Democrats and Americans."

Flake added, "I couldn't do that. So, in a sense, yeah. I'll give him credit."

Flake noted that he believes Trump winning a second term is possibly dependent upon just two things: "One, there's no alternative on the Republican side." And "two, if the Democrats nominate someone on the far left."

For the next two years, Flake expects that party loyalty is going to make politics and government quite ugly.

"The natural inclination, because the president kind of demands loyalty, is to stand by your party, stand with your tribe," Flake explained. "So you’re going to see that really play out a lot more than we’ve seen in the past. It’s not going to be a pretty picture."

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