Which GOP Hopeful Could Unseat Trump in the 2020 Primaries?

Which GOP Hopeful Could Unseat Trump in the 2020 Primaries?

Much is already being written about the packed field of ambitious Democrats that may take on Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. This week in a column entitled Democrats Have a Cornucopia of Candidates, New York Times writer Gail Collins humorously observed:

“There are…418 people who have already declared their intent to run to the Federal Election Commission. Unless you happen to live on the same block as one of them, you probably have never heard any of their names.”

However, in light of Donald Trump’s no good, very bad week of scrutiny and informational drip courtesy of Robert Mueller’s investigation, it may be time to have a look at the Republican crowd. In the event that Trump has not already resigned in disgrace, nor been tossed from office via congressional impeachment proceedings, who will step up to challenge 45 directly? Believe it not, the GOP’s general kowtowing to, and enabling of Dear Leader notwithstanding, there are a few experienced, well-known names in the mix.

Probably the most often discussed opponent at this early date is former Ohio Governor and 2016 Never Trumper, John Kasich. The Week places the odds of his entering the primary field at 80 percent.

Kasich has a lot going for him, very much including his rejection of The Donald’s fitness for highest office. When it came time to cast his own ballot in November 2016, Kasich famously voted for now-deceased Arizona Senator John McCain for president, via write in. In his 2017 memoir, Two Paths: America Divided or United, the former Governor addressed his lack of support for the official Republican nominee directly:

“Why didn’t I endorse Donald Trump simply for the good of the Republican Party? Well, to paraphrase John F. Kennedy, sometimes your party asks too much of you…I was comfortable with the stand I was taking – which, really, was no stand at all. I simply could not swallow hard and set aside everything I believed for the good of the party.”

Centrists and sane liberals will pause here to note that if Kasich really wanted to derail Trump’s march to the White House, he might have just endorsed Hillary Clinton and cast his ballot in her favor. Clinton lost the Buckeye State by eight percentage points in 2016. Would a public endorsement from Ohio’s favorite son have made a difference? Sadly, we’ll never know.

Odds makers view lame-duck Arizona Senator Jeff Flake as the next most likely to take on Trump in the primaries, assuming those contests were held today. Writer Matthew Walther of The Week assigns him a 40 percent chance of throwing his proverbial hat in the ring.

The arguments in favor of Flake’s candidacy are but two: He’s been mildly rebellious against Trump as a sitting Senator, and more importantly, he has nothing better to do. Cynics like myself may be quick to point out the wide disparity between Flake’s condemnatory words for the President’s personal behavior, and his voting patterns.

The FiveThirtyEight blog documents an 84 percent voting record in favor of 45’s legislative agenda. That’s already a number high enough to demand attention from those suspicious that Trump may not be Making America Great Again. But the figure is even more bracing when you consider that in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, Nate Silver’s shingle estimated Flake’s cooperation to hover around 60 percent, based upon Trump’s slim margin of victory in The Grand Canyon State (three and a half points). In short, Flake is a lot of head shaking, how did we lose our civil way(?!) talk – without much walk.

The final big name being thrown about on the right as a possible contender for the Republican nomination in 2020 is…and I think I just vomited in my mouth a little while typing…Texas Senator Ted Cruz. The Week assigns his candidacy a 35 percent likelihood.

One thing that can bring together Americans from across the political spectrum is a unified distaste for Rafael. In September, TexasMonthly reported on the upside down nature of Cruz’s favorability rating – in his own state. And while our collective hate only seems to make Ted Cruz stronger, he has many additional problems in a potential run for the White House. Namely, there’s his very recent capitulation to the Cult of Trump in order to deflect Beto O’Rourke’s Senate seat challenge. On October 19, he was quoted by The Dallas Morning News as saying:

“I made a very conscious choice that I’m going to roll up my sleeves and work hard with the president to deliver on our promises…We’re getting an enormous amount done.”

Given that the last and only candidate in American history to successfully unseat the sitting president of his party in primaries, then go on to win the nation election, was James Buchanan, any Republican challenger is bound to have tempered hopes. But until, um… very recently, Buchanan was also ranked as the most unpopular POTUS in our great nation’s antiquity.

That record stayed intact from the Civil War through January 2017, and records are made to be broken.

Becky Sarwate

Becky is an award-winning journalist, Op-Ed columnist and blogger. On March 29, 2018 her first book, Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team, will be published by Eckhartz Press. She is a proud Chicago resident, where Becky lives with her husband Bob. Check out her collected work at BeckySarwate.com, and follow her on Twitter @BeckySarwate.