President Trump’s new campaign trip to Arizona next week has state Republicans speculating that he is going to endorse a primary challenger to Sen. Jeff Flake.
Mr. Trump is leaning towards endorsing Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit, state Republican sources told The Washington Times, in a move that could help crystalize the race.
Mr. DeWit, who was chairman of the Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in Arizona, has been eyeing the race but has not yet announced his candidacy.
The White House announced the Aug. 22 rally on Wednesday, and it comes at a time when Arizona has emerged as a key test for the GOP, which is riven by pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions.
Later on Wednesday though, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton called on Mr. Trump to postpone the event, saying it was too soon after a violent white nationalist rally in Virginia.
“I am disappointed that President Trump has chosen to hold a campaign rally as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville,” Mr. Stanton said in a statement on Twitter. “It is my hope that more sound judgment prevails and that he delays his visit.”
Earlier this summer Mr. Trump floated the possibility of spending $10 million to help unseat Mr. Flake, who has been one of the president’s top opponents within the Republican Party. The senator opposed Mr. Trump’s candidacy and has emerged as a leading GOP critic on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Flake recently penned a book “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle” that warned Mr. Trump’s brand of populism threatened to destroy the conservative movement and the Republican Party.
Endorsing Mr. DeWit would deliver a painful blow to former State Sen. Kelli Ward, who is currently the only declared GOP challenger to Mr. Flake.
She ran unsuccessfully last year in the primary against Arizona Sen. John McCain, another of Mr. Trump’s foes in the GOP.
Mrs. Ward has been courting Mr. Trump’s support but the president has soured on her, according to sources in Arizona. Mrs. Ward recently meet with the president at the White House but the sit-down grew testy and ended abruptly, according to the source.