Jeff Flake: Republicans Risk Losing Elections If They Don't 'Cozy Up' To Trump

"If I were to run a campaign that I could be proud of ... I could not win in a Republican primary."

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday continued speaking out against President Donald Trump, saying his reasons for not seeking re-election include not wanting to “cozy up” to the president.

“The bottom line is that if I were to run a campaign that I could be proud of and where I didn’t have to cozy up to the president and his positions or his behavior, I could not win in a Republican primary,” Flake said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“You can’t question [Trump’s] behavior and still be a Republican in good standing, apparently,” Flake continued. “So, you know, in poll after poll, you’ll see that majority of Republican primary voters ... are firmly behind the president’s policies. ... They take any criticism of the president as somehow something that’s not conservative ― and that’s what’s got to change.”

Flake, an outspoken critic of Trump in recent months, announced Tuesday that his service in the Senate would conclude when his term ends in January 2019. During an evocative speech on the Senate floor, he stopped just short of saying he felt he’d lose a re-election race.

“I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles,” Flake said during the speech.

“It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party,” he added.

Flake is one of a few Republican lawmakers to speak out against Trump’s behavior, condemning the president’s “flagrant disregard for truth and decency.” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who also announced recently that he would not seek re-election, said Tuesday that Trump’s legacy would be the “debasement of our nation.”

Flake said Wednesday that he felt many of his fellow GOP lawmakers shared concerns over the president’s leadership. He said he expects more Republicans will push back against the “new normal” of Trump’s brand of politics.

″A lot of my colleagues have spoken out and I think a lot more will,” Flake said during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday. “The longer we wait, the more we basically normalize this kind of behavior, these kind of politics. And we can’t do that. We just can’t.”

Minutes later, Trump fired back against Flake on Twitter, claiming his lunch with Republican lawmakers Tuesday was a “love fest.”