- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 4, 2016

The idea that the Republican presidential ticket could lose red-state Arizona is gaining steam amid a number of troubling signs for Donald Trump.

Sen. Jeff Flake, one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest Republican critics, warned Sunday that the state is “up for grabs” and advised members of his party to distance themselves from the real estate mogul.

“It shouldn’t be up for grabs. Mitt Romney won it by, I think, 8 points” in 2012, the Arizona Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “But frankly, it is.”

Mr. Trump promptly dismissed the senator’s worries in the manner he often does: on Twitter.

“The Republican Party needs strong and committed leaders, not weak people such as @JeffFlake, if it is going to stop illegal immigration,” he tweeted.

But Mr. Flake is hardly alone. After Mr. Trump received mixed reviews for his fiery immigration speech Wednesday in Phoenix, the Clinton campaign announced a television ad buy in Arizona, a state that no Democrat has won since Bill Clinton in 1996.

“I think that they’re spending money because they have some indication that she might be in play,” said Mr. Flake. “And, unfortunately, I think that is the case.”

Polls show Mr. Trump leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by just a handful of points. One survey by OH Predictive Insights released Aug. 29 placed the candidates in a statistical tie.

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who faces re-election in November, appeared to hedge his bets last week with a five-minute video stressing the importance of keeping the Senate in the event of a Clinton victory. Mr. McCain is running against Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick in a state with a Hispanic population of about 30 percent.

“My opponent, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, is a good person,” Mr. McCain said. “But if Hillary Clinton is elected president, Arizona will need a senator who will act as a check, not a rubber stamp, for the White House.”

He specifically cited the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, saying Ms. Kirkpatrick would not oppose “Supreme Court justices who will take the courts to liberal extremes. I will.”

Mr. McCain has endorsed Mr. Trump, as has Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, but Mr. Trump put them in an uncomfortable position with his speech calling for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants to “return home and apply for re-entry.”

Mr. Ducey later sidestepped questions about whether he also believes there should be no pathway to citizenship, telling the Arizona Daily Star that he supports “anything that supports border security.”

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said the Trump speech has been mischaracterized as harsh because it was delivered in a “dramatic style” at a rally.

“But if you read that speech carefully it leaves a very big opening for what will happen with the people that remain here in the United States after the criminals are removed and after the border is secure,” Mr. Giuliani told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“When America is safe, we will be open to all of the options, meaning that Donald Trump would find it very, very difficult to throw out a family that’s been here for 15 years, and they have three children, two of whom are citizens,” said Mr. Giuliani.

Mr. Flake said he would not vote for Mrs. Clinton and left open a window for Mr. Trump, saying he would not vote for him “as of now.”

“I just know that I would like to vote for Donald Trump,” he said. “It’s not comfortable to not support your nominee. But, given the positions that he has taken and the tone and tenor of his campaign, I simply can’t.”

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