There is another great reason for the Grand Old Party (GOP) to hold a competitive presidential primary in 2020. Republicans need to a credible successor to Trump.
The sorry truth is Republicans do not know who or what comes after Donald J. Trump (R-New York). For example, neoconservative Trump critic Max Boot speculates Fox News talker Tucker Carlson could be the next GOP nominee.
Tucker Carlson for President?
Specifically, Boot points to a gathering of “national conservative” intellectuals trying to formulate an agenda for the future as proof of the GOP’s new direction. However, the only “national conservative” figure whom Boot can point to as a potential replacement for Trump is Carlson.
On the other hand, as far as I know Carlson has voiced no public interest in public office. From what I have seen of him, Carlson appears happier to criticize from his Fox News perch than run for office. Instead, the presidential speculation comes from admirers like American Conservative writer Rod Dreher and critics like Boot.
The whole thing reminds me of the Oprah for President nonsense last year. Pundits are making up presidential fantasies about a colorful celebrity to attract attention.
What Comes After Trump?
Boot in his clumsy manner, however, exposes a frightening dilemma for Republicans: the GOP has no obvious replacement for Trump waiting in the wings.
If the Donald goes down in next year’s election, Republicans will have no leadership. Instead, the GOP will be in complete chaos and civil war like the Democrats are now. The uneasy truce among cultural conservatives, nationalists, white nationalists, big business, and libertarians will collapse.
This situation is bizarre because the Republicans have a bench of potential presidential candidates that is just as deep, as diverse, and impressive as the Democrats. However, all of those people are hiding in the locker room to avoid the big game.
The Republicans have a Strong Presidential Bench
Here is a sampling of the Republicans’ impressive presidential bench for 2020:
- Vice President Mike Pence (R-Indiana)
- US Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah)
- Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush
- US Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky)
- US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
- US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)
- Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin)
- Former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
- Former Congressman and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford
- US Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado)
- Governor Larry Hogan (R-Maryland)
- Former Ohio Governor John Kasich
- US Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri)
Moreover, any amateur pundit could probably add five or six names to this impressive list. Importantly, some of these people could get the resources; mostly money, they need to challenge Trump with a few phone calls.
Yet only one fringe figure; former Massachusetts governor William Weld, has thrown his hat into the ring. That’s bad for Republicans because they will have nothing if Trump drops out before November 2020.
Why is the Republican Establishment Afraid of a Competitive Presidential Primary?
Additionally, Republicans deserve to know if Trump can wage an effective reelection battle before taking on the Democrats in the fall.
Is the Donald, a political genius; or an opportunist who got lucky in 2016? Republican voters who are risking their reputations for Trump deserve to know.
If Trump is really as popular with the base as the media claims he is, the president should welcome a primary challenge to disprove critics. Yet a primary challenge frightens the party establishment – why?
In fact, members of the Republican National Committee and some grassroots Republicans tried to block a primary challenge, NPR alleges. Notably, the South Carolina GOP tried to cancel its 2020 primary. If Trump is super popular what is the establishment afraid of.
If 82% to 87% of rank-and-file Republicans love Trump as the pollsters claim, the Donald will easily win primaries. Indeed, primaries could be a vindication of Trump’s popularity so why not hold them?
Republicans Deserve a Choice
Finally, there are a lot of Republicans who are uncomfortable with Trump out there. Don’t they deserve a choice?
The last thing the GOP needs is a large percentage of its base thinking they rig the elections in favor of the establishment. That is exactly how many Republicans will view a no-challenger primary.
I think such thinking hurt Hillary Clinton (D-New York) in 2016 by convincing some Democrats to stay home or vote Republican. In fact, University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Brian F. Schaffner thinks disgruntled leftists were the key to Trump’s victory in 2016.
How a No-Challenge Primary can Hurt Republicans
To clarify, Schaffner thinks 12% of the Trump vote came from angry backers of US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). Schaffner’s theory is Bernie backers got revenge on the Democrats for screwing their hero by voting Republican in November 2016.
Republicans could face a similar scenario in 2020; if the 13% to 18% of Republicans who admit they disapprove of the president vote Democratic. Remember, Democrats bet on party loyalty in 2016 and lost. Holding a competitive primary could satisfy those voters.
Finally, Republicans should get the opportunity to tell the world if they approve of Trump and his policies. Notably, all the Trump policies, in particular war with Iran, that go back on his campaign promises.
Republicans need to decide what comes after Trump. A competitive primary could show the party the way ahead.