Political Shock Waves Over The Possibility Of Trump Profoundly Felt Among Arizona GOP

Published: Monday, March 7, 2016 - 7:31am
Updated: Monday, March 7, 2016 - 7:32am
(Photo courtesy of the Office of Rep. Jeff Flake)
U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, R- Ariz.

Despite the fact that the last two Republican nominees for president have now condemned Donald Trump, the chairman of the Arizona Republican Party says party stands behind the front runner.

Speaking from Detroit where he attended the GOP debate last week, Robert Graham said the state GOP sides with the will of voters.

“My job is to deliver the state of Arizona for the nominee, whether it be Trump or Cruz or Rubio or Kasich. And that’s our mission,” he said.

That sentiment differs from some of the state's other big-name Republicans. First up, was longtime U.S. Senator and former presidential nominee John McCain.

Trump and McCain have a history. Trump went after the former Vietnam prisoner of war as he began his campaign last July, infuriating some veterans by questioning McCain’s war hero status and his five and a half years spent as a prisoner of war.

Trump, who got a draft card, but received deferments and did not serve in Vietnam, remarked that he liked “people who weren’t captured.”

In a statement last week concurring with Romney’s speech, McCain shared his concerns about Trump’s dishonesty. He also cited a growing group of 70 fellow Republican defense and foreign policy leaders who’ve spoken out against what McCain termed as "uninformed and dangerous statements on national security."

McCain strongly urged GOP voters to look past Trump, telling them to "think long and hard about who they want to be our next commander in chief."

The state’s number two Congressional Republican, Senator Jeff Flake, expounded on that.

“The statements that Donald Trump has made on foreign policy just don’t square with reality,” he said.

In an interview with KJZZ,  Flake was asked what troubled him the most about Trump’s rhetoric.   

“In particular, the ban against Muslims coming into the U.S.” Flake replied. “It’s not just unconstitutional and wrong-headed, it’s the exact opposite of the policy we need to win this war on terrorism.”

In addition to his denigration of Muslims, Flake said Trump’s policy ideas on Mexico and trade are onerous to partners both here and afar.

“It’s not a realistic policy to say Mexico should build a wall and expect the Mexican government to pay for it,” Flake remarked on Trump’s most persistent message.

“We depend on exports to compete globally. If we reject trade deals including those with countries in Southeast Asia and Mexico, that’s not good for us.”

Still though, many of the state’s most prominent Republicans maintain their support of Trump, including former Governor Jan Brewer, who told Fox News she stands by her man and the choice of voters.

“We live in a Republic and the people have marched forward to support Donald Trump and in a Democracy or a Republic, it’s the voters who get to decide and I think it’s a little outrageous to say the least,” Brewer said.

She said none of the other GOP candidates, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, have done enough to deal with border issues.

“I’ve been talking to those people for the past six years, and none of them have done anything. Everybody has got the same feelings as I do," said Brewer. “We tried, we’re frustrated and we’re tired of being ignored. And Donald Trump is a fighter.”

The Arizona GOP’s Robert Graham does admit he’s not sure Trump is exactly what his party stands for.

“It’s tough because he doesn’t have a public record and we don’t know how he’s voted on legislation. It’s difficult to know what kind of Republican he would be.”

Graham disputes the contention that his party is fractured, that the nominating system is playing out just as intended. “I’m tired of the left media saying there’s a fractured element in the party right now. It’s not.”

But Senator Flake believes the great majority of Republican voters feel the same way and are as troubled as he is about a Trump candidacy.

“I hope they make another choice. I have not been shy about my feelings towards Donald Trump and his positions. Fortunately, there are other good candidates in the race.”

For Flake at least, the better choice is his Senate colleague Marco Rubio.

Reporting by KJZZ's Lauren Gilger contributed to this story.

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