Jeff Flake is announcing his Senate bid today. Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal certainly had great things to say.
The decision by Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) not to seek re-election in 2012 has caused a flurry of interest in a possible run by Rep. Jeff Flake for the seat. Mr. Flake, whose district covers suburban Phoenix, has a reputation as a super-hawk on spending and led the fight against earmarks in the House. He has a near-perfect record on fiscal issues with the National Taxpayers Union.
Indeed, Flake's fiscal record is perfect. He was almost single handedly responsible for turning the world against earmarks. In fact, the first time I heard the term "earmark" was in a 2004 article about Jeff's efforts.
Flake will certainly be the initial front runner, but there are a few things that may trip him up. The first is that he opposes SB 1070. He also sponsored a carbon tax bill that doesn't look good on a Republican resume, and he reneged on his term limit pledge.
Flake also has movie star good looks, but I don't know how that will play out. I think if this picture were a candid shot taken by a journalist, it would add to his rock star status. But the fact that he was alone...setting the camera on rock, doing a quick 50 push ups to get that pump, making sure the self timer worked, clicking the shutter and then running around to grab the hatchet and coconut, waiting for the click, and then running back to see how it looked...well, let's just say I have trouble picturing Barry Goldwater in the same situation. I think the most impressive part was timing the picture so he had some beard, but his chest was still clean shaven. I'm sure his itinerary said "Morning of Day Three: Coconut Shot."
Assuming that the movie star good looks and the teen-aged narcissism cancel each other out, Jeff's biggest issue will probably be money. Sure, the club for growth is all in, and that's a big factor. But what other sources will he have? Flake doesn't play the pork game, so it's not like the big defense contractors will be hosting fundraisers. More importantly, from the reports I get, Jeff hasn't spent his years in DC building the financial network that it takes to raise serious money. The serious candidate has lunch with 3 or 4 potential contributors a week for a decade and then those thousand people become his financial base. Without that ground work and no natural financial constituency, I'm not sure how much money Jeff will be able to raise. Of course, Primary Elections are much cheaper than general elections, so his Club for Growth connections may get the job done.
I don't know if Flake is going to win or not, but he is one of the few people who have actually gone to Washington and not become part of Washington. For that reason alone, he deserves his place as the front runner.