Former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake would prefer a Democrat win the 2020 election than have President Donald Trump serve a second term, saying that “four years is difficult enough to unravel some of the damage” done internationally by the administration.
Flake, a longtime Trump critic who argued Thursday that the Republican Party should not support Trump in 2020, was asked if it is better for a Democrat to win the election if Trump is the Republican nominee.
“Yes … and this notion, this narrative that’s been built up, that Donald Trump is the only one that can cobble together the Electoral College and win is just a fallacy,” Flake replied at an Intelligence Squared debate in New York City. The organization bills itself as a “non-partisan, non-profit” group that hosts debates aimed at promoting various points of view.
“I think that four years is difficult enough to unravel some of the damage that has been done internationally to our role, to our leadership position. We cannot, should not go another four years,” the Arizona Republican said.
Flake also turned to attacking the President on policy during the debate, criticizing his positions on immigration and free trade, as well as Trump’s treatment of the media.
“Starting a trade war is not conservative,” Flake said. “Conservatives have, if there is any defining, animating principle that we have had in the party for generations now, it’s free trade. And the President has really tossed that overboard.”
While he served in the Senate, Flake was one of the President’s most vocal Republican critics, despite being a staunch conservative who almost always voted with the GOP majority. Rather than running what was likely to be a losing re-election battle, Flake opted to retire.
While some Republicans have urged Flake to run against Trump, he ruled out a primary run in January.
During the question-and-answer portion of the debate, an audience member asked Flake if he had any messages of hope for anti-Trump Republicans if Trump wins the 2020 election.
“One message of hope, if he wins again, is that we have limited the President’s terms to two. But that’s a long time,” Flake joked.
CNN’s Eric Bradner contributed to this report.