Kelli Ward, who has already launched her campaign, and Robert Graham, a former state GOP chair and Trump adviser who is considering it, both told CNN on Monday they have had multiple conversations with White House officials about opposing Flake in the Senate primary.
Graham said the talks began shortly after the 2016 presidential campaign concluded, and both Graham and Ward said further conversations took place as recently as two weeks ago.
Another potential candidate — state treasurer Jeff DeWit — has had multiple conversations with Trump, sources familiar with those talks said. DeWit is close with Graham, making it unlikely both would run.
“They used Jeff Flake in Hillary Clinton’s ads, for heaven’s sakes. It was like pouring salt on the wounds,” Graham told CNN.
“I don’t think that that relationship has been mended, even though Jeff Flake is using Donald Trump’s name in some of his fundraising emails,” Ward said in a separate interview.
Flake campaign manager Josh Daniels told CNN that the campaign is “Not going to speculate on speculation.”
“The only thing Sen. Flake concerns himself with is doing the job Arizonans expect him to,” Daniels said. “The rest will take care of itself.”
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment and has not yet received a response.
Polls commissioned by Republicans, sources familiar with the data said, have shown that Trump’s popularity among Arizona GOP primary voters is still at or near 90%, while…