President Trump is the type of leader in his first term that breeds party contenders come time to run for a second term. He most certainly has his detractors within the Democratic Party, but what about his own?
Many incumbent presidents have been challenged for the party nomination within their own party. The most successful in recent times was Ross Perot in 1992. While not actually running as a Republican against George H. W. Bush, seeking his second term, it most certainly cost Bush the election against Bill Clinton.
Opposition within your own party can lead to the challenger running as an independent. That can lead to what looked like a sure win into a defeat by splitting the vote in the general election.
The question is will President Trump face a challenger for the Republican nomination in 2020? It is too early to tell, but it would not be surprising being the tempest in a teapot that he is. There are bound to be candidates who think they have the base to attempt it.
One that comes to mind would be retiring Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. He recently told ABC’s “This Week” that if the president did not change his approach, he “is going to leave a huge swath of voters looking for someone else.”
That appeared to be a veiled threat. There is no love lost between Trump and Flake. The president was disappointed by the senator’s disloyalty in his eyes and was very vocal about finding a challenger to defeat him in the Republican primary this spring. Flake soon found that there were many more Trump supporters in the state than he had imagined.
But it is one thing to have bad blood and quite another to challenge an incumbent president in your own party. Organization and money come to mind. The president remains popular among Republican voters with around 80 percent of GOP voters approving of his performance.
Any challenger will most likely await the 2018 midterm election results before endeavoring into the murky waters as a Republican challenger or third party candidate. One year in office does not make a president.
Flake told ABC’s "This Week," "I don’t rule anything out." But he must consider a Morning Consult poll last October that showed Flake with a weak approval rating among Arizona Republicans of just 30 percent, and only 37 percent among the state’s Republican voters. His anti-Trump diatribe is not resonating in the first state he needs to win over. Although he has announced he will not run for his seat again, he remains highly questionable.
There is a long way to the party nomination, but Flake is not the only ambitious politician eyeing the White House. There are other less notable names that lurk in the shadows that should be considered; and some not so hard to imagine.
One of the less notable includes Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse who publicly challenges Trump in the tweet format. He released a statement in October wondering whether Trump was “recanting” his oath to protect the Constitution, in particular the First Amendment, after the president said it was “disgusting the press is able to write whatever they want.”
He has made minor overtures about his willingness to stand up to Trump, but again the name recognition and the almighty dollar elude him. It might be said that Sasse can be bought off with a nod of farm subsidies or something else to promote his senate career in his state.
Yet another minor deterrent to Trump would have to be New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. She is part of a long line of Trump-haters in the party started primarily from Trump’s own comments during his presidential run about her poor performance as a governor of her state.
The comments came in a rapid succession that surprised many political observers. Many thought of her as an excellent choice as his vice-presidential running mate. For one reason or another, the Hispanic governor ended up on Trump’s black list for her support of Marco Rubio and the rest is history.
In fact, in May 2016 then-candidate Trump appeared at a rally in Martinez’s state, only to criticize her. “She’s got to do a better job, OK?” Trump told a crowd in Albuquerque. That may have come about due to her sharp criticism of his immigration stance and her comments on what she termed his “pattern of disturbing conduct and offensive rhetoric.”
They have since appeared to have kissed and made up. Last February she praised Trump’s capacity to improve national security and strengthen the military. But she is that diverse Hispanic woman many in the party would like to see.
She is definitely a long shot from a tiny state for electoral votes. No national image and little money or base. Besides, she will probably run for the Senate.
Last but not least are two former contenders for the GOP presidential nomination. Both Ohio Governor John Kasich and Texas Senator Ted Cruz have an ax to grind with the feisty president. He was none too kind during the primary campaign to Cruz and dismissed Kasich outright.
Kasich is very public of his dislike for Trump and his ambitions to challenge him in 2020. He told New York Magazine in October he was “plotting his path” for another campaign. That remains to be seen, but he is popular in a key state for Republicans and if Trump leads the party into mass defeat next November, he will be around.
The governor’s problem is the base of the Republican Party is not cozy with him. He often times strolls across the aisle and appears chummy with some of the GOP’s arch enemies in the Democratic Party. That can prove to be disastrous. In the Republican primaries, the only state he won was his own.
But if ever there was a battle of egos, it would be Trump versus Ted Cruz. They are two warriors grappling for the same prize. Trump got it and Cruz wants to take it back. He was by far the biggest challenger to Trump’s nomination of the 16 that ran and lost.
Ted represents the far right and that may be Trump’s biggest headache. Cruz has shown no outward indication he will challenge Trump, but time is on his side. Should the president falter, he would pick up a sizable portion of his base.
The Texas senator has been an ally in the first year of Trump’s presidency. But there is little doubt of Cruz’s intense ambition to be president. To rule him out in 2020 would be ludicrous. He has the type of personality that loves the big fight and being a third party candidate would fit right into his political rebel persona.
The country has witnessed men such as John Anderson (1980) taking their shot at their party’s nominee or incumbent Republican president. It didn’t hurt Ronald Reagan in his landslide victory over Jimmy Carter.
In most cases the results were minor indeed. But besides Perot, who one could say cost H.W. Bush a second term, would be Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.
Disappointed with his hand-chosen successor to his presidency after Taft’s first term in office, Teddy broke with him and formed the Bull Moose Party. It handed the presidency to Woodrow Wilson.
Dwight L. Schwab, Jr. is an award-winning national political and foreign affairs columnist and published author. He has spent over 35 years in the publishing industry. His long-running articles include many years at Examiner.com and currently Newsblaze.com. Dwight is an author of two highly acclaimed books, "Redistribution of Common Sense - Selected Commentaries on the Obama Administration 2009-2014" and "The Game Changer - America's Most Stunning Election in History." He is a native of Portland, Oregon, a journalism graduate from the University of Oregon, and a resident of the SF Bay Area. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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