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After Senator's Retirement, Trump’s Base Comes Into Focus05:34
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They want “liberal tears,” says conservative commentator Charlie Sykes.

They’re a crucial constituency and the Republican Party is finally reflecting their will, says Donald Trump campaign vet Andrew Surabian.

And they think the establishment is out to get their guy, one On Point caller demonstrated Wednesday.

“There’s never been a U.S. president in American history who’s been so maligned and persecuted” as Trump, caller Oliver in Massachusetts said. “They’re all turncoats. They’re all stabbing him in the back.”

President Trump’s base has come into focus after the retirement of Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. In a stunning speech on the Senate floor, Flake announced he wasn’t going to run for re-election.

President Donald Trump hands a signed "Make America Great Again," hat back to a supporter, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, in Reno, Nev. (Alex Brandon/AP)
President Donald Trump hands a signed "Make America Great Again," hat back to a supporter, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, in Reno, Nev. (Alex Brandon/AP)

One reason for the decision: In the age of Trump, he could not win as a never-Trumper.

"Here's the bottom line: The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I'm not willing to take, and that I can't in good conscience take," Flake told the Arizona Republic. "It would require me to believe in positions I don't hold on such issues as trade and immigration, and it would require me to condone behavior that I cannot condone."

On Point with Tom Ashbrook tackled the issue Wednesday, the morning after Flake’s retirement, with Sykes, Surabian, Washington Post political reporter Aaron Blake and The Atlantic writer McKay Coppins.

You can listen to the full episode here. 

Sykes, an author and former radio show host who has emerged as a top Trump critic, said Flake’s decision reflected a realization that "there really is not much of a constituency right now for the politics of decency and civility.” Mainstream conservatives knew they were going to be in the wilderness, Sykes said, but they didn’t expect it to be so lonely.

“As long as they get their Supreme Court justices, as long as you can cause some liberal tears, they’re … not going to object to the tweetstorms or the feuds with Gold Star parents,” Sykes told host Tom Ashbrook of Trump’s base.

Surabian, a Trump campaign vet, former Steve Bannon adviser and head of pro-Trump group Great America Alliance, told On Point that Flake made a political miscalculation by coming out against Trump, and now is paying the price – having to stand by his previous criticisms even though the Trump base is still strong, and wielding enormous influence.

“For the first time in my lifetime, the Republican Party is actually reflecting the will of its voters,” Surabian said.

This segment aired on October 25, 2017.

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