With the 2020 US presidential election looming, the Republicans should be concentrating on winning. Considering that none of the Democrat candidates have emerged as a clear favourite to win their party’s nomination next year so far, and with GDP growing by 2.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2019, Trump should be confident of a second term in office. However, he faces the problem of his own party revolting against him. Former White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, recently said the President has “lost his mind” and that he is worse than a racist.
Furthermore, former one-term congressman Joe Walsh, an established Tea Party Republican, has declared that he is going to stand against the President in the 2020 primaries. He has made a promise to “get in the President’s face every day”. CNN‘s Chris Cillizza has already ruled him out as the man to beat Trump, but he has warned the GOP that the former congressman can still cause significant damage to the President’s electoral prospects. This is because even though he lacks a national donor base due to all levers of the Republican political and fundraising apparatus being controlled by the President, Walsh is likely to appear on TV a lot. He once featured on both MSNBC and CNN in one day.
Cillizza has advised Trump to ignore Walsh. But he is incapable of ignoring an attack, no matter where it comes from. When he was the frontrunner for the 2016 Republican nomination and Senator Rand Paul (Kentucky) was almost defeated, Trump failed to resist attacking the Kentucky Senator by saying “I never attacked him on his look, and believe me – there’s plenty of subject matter there.” The spotlight was then shone on Paul for a brief moment, allowing the Senator to be relevant in the race.
But Walsh is not the only Republican willing to challenge the President. USA Today reports that Trump wrote a pair of tweets on Tuesday referring to his three opponents as “the three stooges”. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-SC, was one of the stooges, as he appeared on NBC‘S Meet the Press to say that he is considering running for president. Walsh and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, who is also challenging Trump in the GOP primaries, were the other two.
These candidates will fail to unseat Trump. According to USA Today, the President has the power of the incumbency, with nearly eight out of ten Republicans approving of Trump’s overall job performance. He has raised $57 million for the Republican National Committee this year alone. But by contesting the President for the 2020 nomination, the GOP risks losing next year’s election. We could be about to witness history repeat itself.
When Pat Buchanan stood against President Bush in 1992, it exposed the GOP’s ideological divisions during the New Hampshire primary, and the latter would go on to lose the general election that year. In 1976, Ronald Reagan challenged President Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination that year. Although Reagan lost, delegates replaced Vice President Nelson Rockerfeller with Kansas Senator Bob Dole as a way of appeasing the Republicans’ ultra-conservative wing. Instead of focusing on a unified campaign to win the 1976 election, Ford had to focus on bitter primary battles in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Florida. With the Watergate scandal looming over him alongside party divisions, he lost the election that year. What happened to Bush and Ford could easily happen to Trump.
This is why Walsh, Weld and anyone else daring to oust the President for the 2020 GOP nomination must be careful. They may not like him, but he is raising money and presiding over a strong economy. Party divisions are likely to expose the Republicans’ ideological rifts and cost them a 2020 victory, like they did in the past.