The title of today’s posting is somewhat purloined from what have become two axioms for political junkies: connecting the dots and separating the signal from the noise. It is way early, but I want to talk about the coming 2020 Republican presidential primary. Yes, you read that correctly. Despite the fact that the White House is currently occupied by a non-term limited Republican who is giving the impression that he is already campaigning for 2020 I expect a Republican challenge and primary fight. Let’s explore.
I’m not exactly on speed dial at the RNC, but word is leaking out that Trump will face a primary challenge in 2020 if he is still in office. No names are attached but there are plenty of dots to be connected. The trick is to decipher which dots are signals and which are just noise. There is always a bunch of publicity seeking or testing the waters “candidates”. Trump was one himself on several occasions. This appears to be much more serious.
Trump is actively soliciting money and going out on the road doing campaign style rallies. In part the rallies are designed to flatter Trump’s ego and keep the base together as much as possible but they could also be part of a 2020 campaign.
The question I have with relation to Trump is whether Trump 2020 is fundraising for a reelection campaign or a legal defense fund for him and his family. (Trump avoids spending his own money whenever possible.) Staying in the fundraising mode for a minute; Mike Pence’s Super PAC is interesting. Is he raising funds for his own legal defense, (his involvement in the crime is murky but the cover-up is another story), is he planning on a Presidential run in 2020 (possibly against Trump), or is he simply raising money to help other Republicans win and therefore be beholden to him?
The leaks out of the RNC that one Republican is definitely serious about challenging Trump in 2020 (on the assumption that Trump is still in office) appear to have validity. The question then becomes that person’s identity. There are certain to be pretenders, but let me offer a theory on who one serious candidate will be.
Steve Bannon met with the Mercers days before he left the White House. Robert Mercer has been Bannon’s billionaire financial angel for some time. He is somewhat reclusive but his daughter Rebekah is the more active player and the one who all but demanded that Trump hire Bannon to run the 2016 campaign. Bannon is an ideologue as are the Mercers and they are now all free of Trump. When their agendas align they can support him and when the positions don’t align they are free to oppose him. The Mercers were huge Trump donors in 2020 – don’t buy the malarkey that Trump self-financed; he didn’t – but before they showered Trump with millions they supported Ted Cruz. Cruz is also more aligned with Bannon’s political philosophy. Remember Bannon is back running Breitbart (whose primary financial backer is Robert Mercer) and Breitbart is extremely influential with the far right of the Republican primary electorate. Bannon, via Breitbart, can take that portion of the GOP primary electorate away from Trump if he so chooses. Trump can’t win without it. Ted Cruz will challenge Donald Trump in 2020. An interesting caveat is that Cruz has to win reelection to the Senate in 2018. Would Trump spend against Cruz in Texas in 2018? Would that be successful?
Cruz is the most hated member of the Senate especially by his fellow Republicans. Former Speaker John Boehner said Cruz “Was the most miserable son-of-a-bitch I ever worked with.” Establishment Republicans don’t like Cruz any more than they like Trump. That means they need to coalesce around a consensus electable and more moderate candidate. Will they? And if so who is that candidate?
Whether Pence is President or Vice President is a huge factor. If Trump exits and Pence is sitting behind the big desk he is the GOP’s candidate plain and simple. If he is Vice President that is quite another matter! Here is another option to consider: Pence is neither? What if Pence resigns as part of his challenge to Trump? I’m not even going to throw in the wild card of Pence is so caught up in Russiagate that he is removed from office because I do not think that could happen in a short period of time.
Could the Republicans rally around someone like John Kasich? Kasich comes from vital Ohio and is moderate for today’s Republican Party. I could see Kasich actually getting some Democratic leaning crossover.
If Trump either loses or underperforms early in the 2020 primaries will he essentially pull an LBJ and announce he will not run for reelection? Would he go one step further and resign at that point? In my opinion, the latter is less likely than the former.
Will other Senators (i.e. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse) join Cruz in challenging Trump? If so will that effectively destroy what I expect to be a Republican majority in the next Senate? How does Trump get anything passed then, especially when he can’t seem to accomplish anything in that body now?
Will the “sharks sensing Trump blood in the water” all jump in duplicating the 2016 clown car which split the vote in such a manner as to allow Trump to win in the first place. If so can he win again?
Cruz cannot be the GOP’s white night. That means at least one other candidate. Too many cooks spoil the soup and too many 2020 GOP candidates will definitely spoil the primary (except for the press). Lots of dots, lots of noise; is there a clear signal yet?
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