By Erick Erickson
“Look at the scorecards,” they tell me. “If Jeff Flake isn’t good enough for you, you don’t know what a conservative is,” they say.
Well, the problem is I do know what a true and real conservative is, and that is why I am so disappointed in Jeff Flake. He was the model for what a true and real conservative is and it looked a lot like former Congressman Jeff Flake. Back in 2012, when Flake ran for the Senate, he and I met at The Breakers in Palm Beach. We were there for the Club For Growth meeting and Flake was the model. Jeff Flake had been in the House of Representatives since 2003, had stood up to President Bush repeatedly, and had a 100% lifetime score from the Club for Growth.
Flake looked me in the eye and told me the Senate needed reinforcements and he was the guy. I believed him. It has been all down hill from there. One need only look at his Club for Growth scorecard to see the difference and it is that scorecard that matters most.
Because the Club has the longest track record of being the conservative standard bearer in scorecards. It is uncompromising and has a lengthy track record on fiscal, not social, issues. The Club’s is the scorecard that Flake campaigned on. The Club’s scorecard is the one Flake used to recruit donors and national support. Going all the way back, Flake had a consistently conservative record on fiscal issues. He was one of the very few congressmen supported by the Club with a lifetime 100% score.
Then Flake, promising to take that track record to the Senate, got elected to the Senate. He was thereafter hit by the “growing in office” disease so many senators suffer.
In 2013, the Club For Growth’s model candidate had an 84% score, below Mitch McConnell.
In 2014, Flake went up to 90%, but was still outperformed by porkers like Chuck Grassley who had a 91% score that year but, unlike Flake, an 80% life time score. In fact, seven senators with lifetime scores lower than Jeff Flake’s outperformed Flake on the Club’s scorecard that year.
2015 was an improvement for Flake, who went up to 93%, but in 2016 his score was just 84%.
This is mirrored with Heritage Action for America. In Flake’s last year in the House he had a 97% score with HAFA. Once he got to the Senate, he dropped to a 59& score below the average for Senate Republicans. In the last Congress, his HAFA score was just 67%.
Flake has the right message about principle and standing for conviction, but Flake has not done that. He is now, with the help of a willing press corps and Republicans who dislike President Trump, trying to claim he is the victim of the President’s wrath and he is standing on principle. If only that were true. Ben Sasse is doing it, without writing a book about it, and has a HAFA score of 94% and a Club for Growth score of 100%.
Both men talk the same talk, but only one of them is really walking the walk. Jeff Flake has the right message. He’s just the wrong messenger because he does not really believe it and is not really living it.
Jeff Flake’s entire argument right now is premised on getting sympathy from the media to either get Democrat crossover help against Kelli Ward in 2018’s Arizona primary, or to get a sweet gig after he gets beaten. He and his media acolytes are peddling a story about him being punished for being pure. He is trying to nationalize a race to hide the truth that he lied to Arizona’s voters and betrayed them in the Senate. The truth is Flake is being punished for being a self-promoting liar who took advantage of conservative good will only to start betraying them once he went to the Senate.
And the punch line is that he’ll probably get away with it because Kelli Ward is not a strong candidate against him. But I hope my anti-Trump conservative friends who are heralding Flake as a victim of principle against the President will stop. He is no such thing. Were he, he’d be doing quite well. But voters in Arizona realize Senator Jeff Flake is not the man Congressman Jeff Flake was.