Just over four months into his term as our newest U.S. Senator, our very own Jeff Flake has distinguished himself quite a bit – as being the most unpopular Senator in the country. A recent poll of Arizona voters conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows only 32% of Arizonans have a favorable view of Senator Flake while 51% have an unfavorable view (17% are neutral). Republicans largely still stand by their man with a 57% favorability vs. 29% unfavorable. And not surprisingly Democrats overwhelmingly dislike Flake with only 10% having a favorable view of Flake and 71% disapprove of him. But, most importantly in Arizona where Independents swing most political races, Independent voters disapprove of Flake by a 58-25% margin.
Senator Flake initially discounted the PPP poll, calling the firm “leftist leaning”. PPP does conduct polling for many Democratic candidates and organizations, including the progressive web site DailyKos. But it was also one of the most accurate pollsters of the 2012 election. In their final poll of Arizona in 2012 PPP predicted Mitt Romney would carry the state by 7 points; he actually carried it by 10 points, and other pollsters had Romney ahead by as much as 15 points. And in the U.S. Senate race PPP predicted Flake would defeat Richard Carmona by 5 points; Flake actually won by 4.6%. By the next day Flake was back peddling, agreeing the PPP poll was accurate. He wrote on his Facebook page:
“Nothing like waking up to a poll saying you’re the nation’s least popular senator. Given the public’s dim view of Congress in general, that probably puts me somewhere just below pond scum. Now, notwithstanding the polling firm’s leftist bent, I would assume that my poll numbers have indeed taken a southerly turn since my vote against the Manchin-Toomey background check proposal. It was a popular amendment, and I voted against it.”
Somewhere below pond scum? For once I can agree with Jeff Flake. And yes, the Manchin-Toomey background check proposal is popular, even in the land of the Gunfight at the OK Coral and the town too tough to die. 70% of all Arizonans support expanded background checks, and only 26% oppose it. Democrats support it overwhelmingly, by a 92-6% margin. Even Republicans support it by a 50-44% margin. And Independents support it strongly by a 71-24% margin. So yes, Senator Flake, not only did you vote against something which has strong support in your state, it’s the way you went about it. In the days following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Flake vowed not to be swayed by the National Rifle Association. And then when the NRA announced its opposition to the Manchin-Toomey Background Check Bill and said it would “score” Senators on their vote on the measure Flake crumpled and voted against it. And just weeks before the vote Senator Flake responded to a letter from the mother of a man killed in the Aurora theater mass shooting. In his own handwriting he told her “While we may not agree on every solution, strengthening background checks is something we can agree on.” And then he turned around and voted against it. Senator, have you no shame?
Jeff Flake may have no sense of shame, be he thinks he does have a sense of politics – he thinks Arizona voters are stupid and that we’ll forget his shameful double cross on his vote for expanded background checks. In an interview with the LA Times Flake said he was “not concerned about gun-control groups who are vowing political consequences. That’s the beauty of a six-year term“. The beauty of a six-year term, eh? You say one thing and then vote the other way because you won’t have to face the voters for another 5 1/2 years? Have it your way, Senator. But, Mark Kelly won’t forget.
Mark Kelly, husband of former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, says the gun-control organization the couple has founded will work to defeat Sen. Jeff Flake (R) in the next election if the Arizona senator votes against expanding background checks to include more gun buyers. Mr. Kelly said Senator Flake is “a good friend” of Ms. Giffords. But he gave this warning Tuesday at a Monitor-hosted breakfast with reporters: “You know friendship is one thing … saving people’s lives, especially first-graders’, is another.”
And don’t count on us Arizona voters forgetting either, Senator.
The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns released a report today stating that the 45 senators who voted to block expanded background checks have received a combined total of $8,165,490 in lifetime contributions and independent expenditures from the NRA. They list the individual NRA contributions for 14 Senators, including Jeff Flake. Senator Flake received a total of $362,616 in contributions from the NRA.
Mr. Flake did pretty well for himself, which may well explain his flip-flop on claiming to support “strengthening background checks” but then voting against it when his NRA patron opposed it and said they would “score” his vote on the bill. By comparison, the only Democrat on the list, Max Baucus of Montana received only $28,780 in NRA contributions. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky received $162,545 in contributions. Ted Cruz of Texas, also just elected last year with Flake, received $79,329 in contributions. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio seems to have undying loyalty to the gun manufacturing lobby, receiving over $1,314,279 in contributions.
The best Senators money can buy.