According to a feature story this weekend in The New York Times, several Republicans are already plotting to mount a potential run against President Donald Trump in the 2020 primaries…including – perhaps – his own vice president!
From the Times:
Senators Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse have already been to Iowa this year, Gov. John Kasich is eyeing a return visit to New Hampshire, and Mike Pence’s schedule is so full of political events that Republicans joke that he is acting more like a second-term vice president hoping to clear the field than a No. 2 sworn in a little over six months ago.
In interviews with more than 75 Republicans at every level of the party, elected officials, donors and strategists expressed widespread uncertainty about whether Mr. Trump would be on the ballot in 2020 and little doubt that others in the party are engaged in barely veiled contingency planning.
“They see weakness in this president,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. “Look, it’s not a nice business we’re in.”
While many inside the party are insisting that they are merely preparing for the possibility that Trump will not be “available in 2020” (??), there are a few personalities who won’t rule out running directly against a Trump second term. Those include Gov. Kasich, who did not miss many opportunities to speak out against the president’s health care reform efforts this spring and conservative pundit Bill Kristol, who is apparently talking about starting a “Committee Not to Renominate the President.”
“We need to take one shot at liberating the Republican Party from Trump,” Kristol told the Times. “And conservatism from Trumpism.”
Republicans are making a big mistake if this turns into anything more than idle conversation. If Trump decides he’s had enough at the end of his term, so be it. Good for those who had the foresight to see it coming. But if Trump wants a second term, it’s incumbent on Republicans to fall in line behind their president. Trump’s victory did not completely seal the cracks in the GOP’s foundation last November, but it at least provided the possibility of a slow and steady rebuild. Any Republican who mounts an offensive against him in the primaries is just begging to crack those repairs wide open again, and that’s all the opportunity the Democrats will need to slide in and win.