The Slatest

After Horrible Week, Trump Increasingly Seen as Vulnerable to a Primary Challenge

President Donald Trump speaks about the government shutdown on January 25, 2019, from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C.
President Donald Trump speaks about the government shutdown on January 25, 2019, from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. ALEX EDELMAN/Getty Images

President Donald Trump had promised his supporters that they would “win so much” once he got to the White House that they’d eventually get “sick and tired of winning.” Surely right now the commander in chief would be happy with at least a small victory following weeks in which he has given his supporters little of the savvy negotiator and strong leader he had promised on the campaign trail. After the longest government shutdown in U.S. history ended with a clear defeat for the president, suddenly the already simmering talk about a potential 2020 primary challenger is getting louder, reports the New York Times.

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Some Republican leaders are increasingly concerned Trump won’t be up to launching a strong campaign after what they see as the inevitable wear of the next two years of a divided government. Plus, the continuing investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, appears to be getting closer to Trump and his closest allies, which could also cloud his chances of convincing Americans to give him another four years in the White House.

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As Republicans look around for a possible alternative, some appear to be zeroing in on Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, who has signaled he wouldn’t be closed off to the idea. The White house has taken notice and Trump’s political aides “have been monitoring the Maryland governor for months,” reports Politico. He isn’t alone though. William Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, is also analyzing the possibility of a Trump challenge.

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Those considering challenging Trump must be well aware that history is not on their side, but some may believe this time will be different. The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman explains:

Even if Trump remains unpopular and Republicans grow more panicky about the possibility of him losing to a Democrat, it will still be a big leap for them to support a challenge, since those challenges have always failed, at least in modern times. But the unusual nature of Trump’s presidency might make the challenge more plausible as something other than a quixotic effort. Yes, a president being defeated for his party’s nomination hasn’t happened since 1884, and only once in U.S. history has a sitting president who won election in his own right lost the nomination (that would be Franklin Pierce in 1852). But we had never elected someone without a day of government or military experience, or someone so manifestly unqualified, or someone who spends his mornings live-tweeting “Fox & Friends.” If all that could happen, why not a successful primary challenge?

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For now, Republican donors appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach before they make any firm commitments to back a challenger. Stanley Druckenmiller, who has given millions to Republican candidates, said he would consider donating to a Trump challenger if he thought he had a chance of winning.

On Saturday, Trump implied he had nothing to worry about and celebrated that the Republican National Committee had issued a symbolic resolution declaring support for the president. “Considering that we have done more than any Administration in the first two years, this should be easy,” Trump wrote. “More great things now in the works!” Something Trump failed to mention is that the resolution of support was orchestrated by one of his top campaign officials.

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