by Jay Patel:
After the results of the mid-term elections, some figures within the Republican Party have sought to blame Democratic gains on President Donald Trump. It comes as no surprise that many of these very people are said to be contemplating challenges to the President in the 2020 Republican presidential primary, and are seeking to use this opportunity in order to propel their own bids.
The first on the list is Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Flake was originally a hardline conservative in the House of Representatives, aligned with Ron Paul and the then-nascent Tea Party movement. He used his conservative record to win election to the U.S. Senate in 2012, but thereafter he quickly drifted into moderation, becoming a close ally of ‘maverick’ Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), even going so far as to openly disavow his previous vote against the Wall Street bailouts in the House of Representatives. After Trump received the Republican nomination for President, Flake refused to support his candidacy and consistently denounced him thereafter, even upon Trump’s 2016 victory.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) is another individual who has repeatedly refused to rule out a primary challenge to the President. A long time stalwart of the Republican establishment, Corker has been the chair of the powerful Senate Committee on Foreign Relations since 2015. In 2016, Corker seemed willing to support Trump after he became the presidential nominee, campaigning with Trump at rallies and even being considered as a candidate for Vice President and Secretary of State due to his allegedly moderate, ‘realist’ views on foreign affairs. However, the relationship quickly soured and Corker became one of the most vehement critics of the Trump administration within the party.
The other main contender is Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), who ran in 2016 but dropped out after Trump’s victory in the Indiana presidential primary. Kasich has long pitched himself as a centrist, willing to work with both sides in order to enact pragmatic solutions, though his record as Ohio Governor remains mixed. Like Flake, he refused to support Trump in 2016. His weakness is his total lack of charisma, which played a part in his trouncing in the 2016 race.
A dark horse could well be Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). Unlike Flake, Corker and Kasich, Amash will continue to hold elected office beyond the end of the year. However, his lower profile will make any bid by him even tougher than by these other senior Republicans.
The main problem for all of these figures is how to build a coalition of voters to oust Trump as the nominee. They would need to firstly tap into disaffected populist voters, who saw Trump as a vehicle of change in 2016 but do not think he has delivered. They would also need to court conservative voters who supported Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in 2016, although this will be exceptionally difficult given Trump’s strong stance as President on a number of conservative priorities. Finally, they would have to win over moderate, centrist voters who regard Trump as too conservative.
However, how many of these people will really be voting in the primary? Many of them have already switched to the Democrats. As a consequence, it is likely that any challenge to Trump’s nomination will fail to gain ground and he will be the nominee. Should he be the nominee, he still has a strong chance of reassembling his 2016 general election coalition and beating the Democrats for a second term as President.