Flake: 'I hope' McSally wins bid to succeed me

Flake: 'I hope' McSally wins bid to succeed me
© Greg Nash

Retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePoll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union MORE (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday backed Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyArmy calls base housing hazards 'unconscionable,' details steps to protect families Poll shows McSally, Kelly tied in Arizona Senate race Mark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid MORE (R-Ariz.) in her bid to replace him, hours before polls were set to close in her Republican Senate primary.

“I think McSally will win. I hope she does. That’s the only shot that obviously Republicans have to hold on to the seat, but it’s even difficult then. This is going to be a hard-fought general election,” Flake told reporters.

Flake, a vocal critic of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE who announced last fall that he would retire after this Congress, offered his support for McSally as she pushed to pull out a win in Tuesday's Senate GOP primary.

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McSally is facing off against two conservative firebrands, former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for a chance to compete in the November general election for the seat being vacated by Flake.

All three candidates competing in Tuesday's Republican primary have tried to tie themselves closely to Trump, who has relationships with each of the candidates.

Trump has declined to offer an endorsement in the race, though Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerInviting Kim Jong Un to Washington Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times MORE (R-Colo.), the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, reportedly asked the president to back McSally in a recent phone call.

Ward has garnered negative headlines in recent days over her criticism of the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech MORE (R-Ariz.), while Arpaio was pardoned by Trump after being convicted of contempt of court for refusing to end racial profiling of Hispanics during immigration arrests.

The winner of Tuesday's GOP primary is likely to face Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) in the fall. The three-term congresswoman is well-funded and has avoided a grueling and bitter primary.

A compilation of polls by RealClearPolitics shows Sinema leading all three GOP candidates in hypothetical matchups, but defeating McSally by the smallest margin of the three.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report lists the Senate race as a “toss up.”