As if 2019 didn’t present enough problems for Donald Trump, there are indications that he is losing Republican support. Previously compliant Senators now oppose him on a range of issues - tariffs, troop withdrawals, the shutdown. Further opposition looms if he persists with plans to call a state of emergency over funding for his wall.
With polls indicating heavy defeat in 2020, the GOP hierarchy no longer regards him as a winner. Mega-donor Charles Koch has already said he will only finance congressional candidates in 2020 - effectively an admission of defeat.
Space is finally opening up for Republicans to criticise. If Trump’s approvals don’t significantly improve, fewer will tie their 2020 campaigns to him. The ambitious - or those predicting indictment or impeachment - could spot an unlikely route to the White House.
A primary challenge is not certain. It is abnormal, if not unknown against a sitting president. These are abnormal times though and there is already some will for a challenge.
Polls show upwards of a third of Republicans want one. Lest we forget, there was plenty of GOP opposition to Trump’s 2016 nomination. Most races were won with less than 50% and at one stage, a contested convention was heavily odds-on.
Trump remains best priced at 1/2 with Coral to be the Republican Nominee, but the value play is to find the outsider who might dare to challenge him and perhaps end up in a dual for the nomination. Here’s five to consider.
The most often mentioned name regarding a primary challenge was in the thick of that divisive primary. Kasich finished third but didn’t endorse Trump or even attend the convention. There is no love lost between them and Kasich has even been known to troll him over Putin.
The former Ohio Governor is now a commentator on CNN and touring the country, promoting his brand of centrist conservatism. His 2016 bid earned many plaudits for refusing to engage in the relentless personal abuse or pander to prejudice.
Polls showed he was by far the most electable candidate nationally, but he was too liberal for the modern GOP. That hasn’t changed but don’t rule out a run.
Corker was both an early Trump endorser and one of the first to criticise him, as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The former Tennessee Senator has repeatedly called the White House a ‘day care centre’ and warred with Trump on Twitter.
Corker has pointedly refused to rule out a 2020 run. When retiring from the Senate in late December, he said his decision would probably depend on what happens in the next three months, and whether the president doubled down on colossal foreign policy mistakes. He also condemned the shutdown as a political stunt.
Here’s the best bet. Sasse is semi-detached from the party mainstream, describing himself as an independent conservative who caucuses with the Republicans. He has refused to rule out running, albeit equally deeming it unlikely.
The Nebraska Senator has often spoken out against Trump, most notably on his friendly stance towards Putin. As the Russia revelations drop during 2019, Sasse will be a go to man for the media. Likewise, he would be near the top of any list of GOP Senators who might back impeachment - were it introduced and supported by the House.
Whereas most others have baggage, and bruises, from Trump, this 46-year-old is relatively new to politics. There is every incentive to make a name for himself by running. He represents a farm state, providing a platform to criticise Trump’s tariffs and their effect on farmers.
Romney is free to criticise Trump, safe in the knowledge that he is practically royalty in Utah. He has done so before, launching this brutal attack on Trump’s character and business practices during the primary, when trying in vain to engineer a NeverTrump coalition.
The losing 2012 nominee has said he has no appetite for another run but his ambition, and wealth, are legendary. If the party were to blow up amid impeachment and criminal proceedings, who better to step into the void than this elder statesman? The contrast with Trump has served his predecessor well - Romney would get a hearing.
Finally the most likely to run. A longstanding Trump critic, Hogan’s stock has never been higher after being re-elected as Governor of solidly Democrat Maryland. He underwent cancer surgery and beat it, whilst in office. He’s admitted to being flattered and interested in his name becoming frequently mentioned for 2020.
Could he win the national nomination? Surely not, given his liberal positions on gun control, healthcare and climate change. However, just by challenging Trump, Hogan would open up a highly dangerous process for the president. Kickstarting a race may well encourage others to join in. There are no election betting odds available for Hogan just yet, but keep an eye out.
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