There still remains a remnant of the NeverTrump wing of the Republican Party that continues to criticize and withhold support from President Donald Trump, even as he achieves success on a variety of issues that conservatives and Republicans have long championed.
As the 2020 presidential election draws near, a handful of those NeverTrumpers have signaled that they are considering mounting a primary challenge against the incumbent president to win the party’s nomination, but doing so would almost certainly be a fool’s errand.
A recent poll by Rasmussen Reports revealed that there is little room in the Republican Party right now for a challenge against President Trump, as Republican voters approve overwhelmingly of the job Trump has done thus far and consider him to be locked in when it comes to re-nomination in 2020.
The poll found that 88 percent of likely Republican voters believed that it was “likely” that Trump would earn renomination. In fact, 70 percent of those GOP voters said it was “very likely” that Trump would be the party’s nominee in the next election.
Furthermore, U.S. News and World Report noted that the Republican National Committee stands firmly behind President Trump as he seeks re-election, and RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced to the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference that any potential challenger to Trump’s renomination would “lose horribly.”
That doesn’t bode well for any Republicans currently thinking about challenging Trump for the nomination, which at this point includes only former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and current Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, though it is possible that other NeverTrumpers could throw their hats into that ring.
“They have the right to jump in and lose. That’s fine,” McDaniel said of the potential primary challengers. “They will lose horribly.”
“The president has a 90 percent approval in our party,” she added. “What would any Republican be thinking saying, ‘This is a guy I’m going to run against?’”
McDaniel’s remarks came a little more than a month after the RNC had announced that the committee had pledged its “undivided support” of Trump’s 2020 re-election effort following its winter meeting.
McDaniel’s prediction that any primary challenger to Trump would “lose horribly” isn’t just optimistic rhetoric, either, as history has shown that primary challenges against incumbent presidents are rarely successful and carry significant risks versus little in the way of rewards.
National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru, in a January Op-Ed for Bloomberg, noted as much as he considered the potential of a challenge to Trump’s renomination, which he ultimately dismissed as “a suicide mission.”
While the odds would be heavily stacked against any primary challenger, the potential rewards for the failed challenge include setting themselves up as a party leader once Trump eventually leaves office — either after losing to the Democrats in 2020 or after completing a second term in 2024 — while also injecting their ideological views into the mainstream of the party.
However, those potential rewards are seemingly outweighed by the risks a failed challenge would likely bring, namely “the increased ideological uniformity of the parties and the rise of negative partisanship.”
Ponnuru wrote, “If an anti-Trump Republican runs for the nomination, loses it, and Trump then loses in November 2020, the blowback against the challenger will be more intense: He will be blamed for helping give the nation President Kamala Harris (or whoever).”
“If the candidate runs and then Trump wins the general election, a lot of Republicans will view him as the guy who acted as Harris’s useful idiot,” he added. “Destroying the challenger’s political future will also be, we can be fairly confident, a high priority for the re-elected president.”
Considering the manner in which Trump demolished the 16 challengers he faced in the 2016 Republican primary, it is likely that he would do the same, if not worse, to the small handful of challengers who might be foolish enough in 2020 to go up against him, the RNC and the overwhelming majority of the GOP base. In other words, it is almost certainly a career-ending political suicide mission with virtually no hope of success.