Flake declines to rule out 2020 bid to unseat Trump

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., accompanied by his wife Cheryl, leaves the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, after announcing he won't seek re-election in 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The day after denouncing President Donald Trump in an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, GOP Sen. Jeff Flake declined Wednesday to rule out a 2020 challenge to Trump's bid for reelection.

Asked about the race on ABC's "Good Morning America," the Arizona lawmaker told host George Stephanopoulos simply, "That's a long way away."

"I'm focused on my next 14 months in the Senate, making sure that we get some good policy," Flake said. "There are some things that I want to accomplish in the short term."

When Stephanopoulos pressed Flake, he balked from giving a definite answer, saying again: "You know, that's a long time away."

Citing the president's "flagrant disregard of truth and decency," the Arizona senator announced Tuesday he will finish out his term before retiring in 2019.

"There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles," Flake said in a Senate floor address. "Now is such a time.

"It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end."

Flake has long been one of Trump's most vocal critics, declining to endorse him as a candidate for office and later speaking out against his administration's agenda -- most notably in a book criticizing the president as insufficiently conservative.

While Flake has painted his departure as primarily a stand against the president, the lawmaker has been sagging in the polls for months.

Flake has attributed this dip in favorability to his opposition to Trump, saying on MSNCBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday that "you can't question his behavior and still be a Republican in good standing."

Trump has seized on Flake's poor ratings for ammunition to fire back; earlier Wednesday, the president took to Twitter to lash out at Flake and fellow GOP Sen. Bob Corker, who has also publicly critiqued the White House.

Stephanopoulos wasn't the only journalist to ask Flake about a potential campaign for president.

CNN's Alisyn Camerota also asked the Republican about 2020 during a Wednesday appearance on "New Day."

Flake responded with a nearly identical response, telling Camerota again that the race was "a long way off."

Pressed on if the idea had crossed his mind, Flake reiterated: "I'm focused on my work in the Senate. I have another good 14 months."

In August, Flake told George Public Broadcasting's "Political Rewind" that Trump's governing was "inviting" a primary challenge come his second term.

"I think he could govern in a way that he wouldn't," Flake said. "But, I think that the way that -- the direction he's headed right now, just kinda drilling down on the base rather than trying to expand the base -- I think he's inviting one."

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