TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - According to several reports, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake won't seek reelection in 2018.
Politico is reporting Flake will retire when his term expires.
After bucking President Donald Trump in a state the president won, Flake has been bottoming out in polls.
A White House search for a candidate to replace former state Sen. Kelli Ward in the primary appears to have hit a wall. And now conservatives want to turn Arizona into the latest example of a Trump Train outsider taking down a member of the GOP establishment.
"People are fooling themselves if they think Jeff Flake is anything but a walking dead member of the United State Senate," said Andy Surabian, whose Great America Alliance is backing Ward.
Despite discontent among some Republicans over Ward, Steve Bannon met with Ward last week at a conservative conference in Colorado Springs to encourage her campaign, according to a Republican official who demanded anonymity to disclose the previously unreported private meeting.
Ward unsuccessfully challenged Arizona's senior senator, John McCain, in last year's election, losing in the primary by a wide margin. But in Flake, she would face a more vulnerable candidate at a moment when the GOP establishment is on the defensive, facing a simmering anti-incumbent mood heightened by Republicans' failure to make good on seven years of promises to scrap Barack Obama's health care law.
Flake was in danger of becoming the latest victim of this voter wrath. Yet rather than making an effort to soothe pro-Trump GOP voters, he's all but dared them to take him down by kicking off his campaign with an anti-Trump manifesto, "Conscience of a Conservative," a book in which he bemoaned his party's failure to stand up to Trump in last year's presidential race.
"We pretended that the emperor wasn't naked," Flake wrote.
Trump, in turn, has lashed out at Flake on Twitter, calling him "toxic," while praising Ward. White House officials say there's little chance Trump will have a change of heart over supporting Flake. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose private deliberations, said Trump is irritated not only by Flake's public criticism, but by what Trump sees as the senator's attempts to use his critiques of the president to gain attention.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.