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The Candidates That Could Primary Donald Trump In 2020


While the Democratic primary gets well underway, Republicans could also be seeing a presidential primary shape up for themselves.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) became the latest high-profile figure this week to announce he is considering a run against President Donald Trump for the Republican Party’s 2020 nomination joining two other potential candidates preparing to throw their names into the ring and one former governor who has already declared his candidacy.

Former Massachusetts moderate Republican governor and 2016 Libertarian candidate for vice president Bill Weld became the first Republican challenger to the president with an announcement in April. Maryland’s moderate Republican Governor Larry Hogan ruled out a presidential bid in June.

Most Republican voters do not want to see a primary challenge against their president. A Hill-HarrisX poll conducted in June revealed that only 44 percent of Republicans surveyed wanted to see a primary challenger run against Trump. While that’s not a majority, that number is 12 points higher than how many Democrats wanted to see a primary challenger emerge against President Barack Obama in 2011 according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

George Washington University professor Danny Hayes is skeptical of a successful primary challenge against Trump but said a compelling candidate’s entrance into the race could impact the 2020 election in some interesting ways.

One way Hayes said would be by forcing Trump to spend time and money on campaign efforts that could make the president look weak. Another way Hayes said would be if a candidate developed a strong foothold in a state motivating the candidate to launch an independent bid in the general election that could take away needed votes in the Electoral College.

Hayes emphasized however that each scenario was unlikely and that he remains unconvinced that the current candidates in speculation right now could bring down Trump in the Republican Party.

“Ultimately, the events of the last two years, the events of the last three days I think have demonstrated that the Republican Party as is now is constituted as Trump’s party,” Hayes said.

“It’s hard for me to see how Kasich’s brand of compassionate Republicanism or Justin Amash’s sort of Tea Party libertarian orientation is able to threaten Trump’s hold on the party right now. That seems very unlikely.” he added.

A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee (RNC) also asserted the president’s support from Republican voters.

“President Trump has an unprecedented level of support among Republican voters,” said RNC Spokesperson Michael Joyce. “Any effort to challenge him is bound to go absolutely nowhere.”

Here are the candidates that may shake things up:

Former Ohio Governor John Kasich

The former two-term governor of Ohio came in fourth of a crowded field of candidates in the delegate count competing for Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. Throughout the campaigns, Kasich was consistent in his criticism of Trump and famously reneged on a pledge to endorse the party’s eventual nominee in the general election, a promise made at the first Republican debate in Cleveland in the fall of 2015. Publicly denouncing Trump throughout the campaign and ultimately voting for the party’s 2008 presidential nominee former Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kasich has been one of the president’s most relentless critics since the campaign, making dozens of national media appearances criticizing the president.

Since leaving office in January, Kasich has only ramped up his attacks on the president, taking on a new role as a new CNN senior political commentator. Since the 2016 campaigns, the former governor, congressman, and Fox News host has also written two new books. His first book after dropping out of the presidential race, “Two Paths: America Divided or United,” was published and released in 2016. Kasich most recently finished writing another book set to be released in October titled, “It’s Up To Us: Ten Little Ways We Can Bring About Big Change.”

Throughout the last year, Kasich has sent mixed signals about whether he will launch a primary challenge against the president but has still left the door open.

“Appreciate all the encouragement to challenge @realDonaldTrump in 2020. Know that while the path looks tough, all of my options are on the table. Like all of you, I want our country to be united, forward looking and problem solving. #2020,” Kasich tweeted in May.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Kasich added few new details on whether he will run but declined to take the option off the table.

“You know, things are very volatile in this business, and you just cannot predict what might change,” Kasich said.

With high name recognition from a previous campaign and a long record of both public and private work experience, Kasich would likely be Trump’s most competitive contender in a Republican primary if he were to enter the race.

Immediately prior to his time as governor from 2011 to 2019, Kasich worked in finance and also worked for Fox News, hosting “Heartland with John Kasich” and occasionally subbing in for Bill O’Reilly on “The O’Reilly Factor.” Prior to Fox, Kasich served 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, six of which were as the chair of the House Budget Committee where Kasich lead the effort to balance the federal budget in the 1990s.

Michigan Congressman Justin Amash

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) has been in the national spotlight in recent weeks becoming the first Republican in Congress to join Democrats in their call for the president’s impeachment following the investigation concluded in the Mueller report. Recently, Amash garnered national press attention for publicly leaving the Republican Party in a Washington Post op-ed.

“Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party,” Amash wrote in the op-ed published on the Fourth of July. “No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us.”

Amash did not attack the president directly in the piece but it came after months of public sparring between the president and the Michigan congressman, who has been one of Trump’s fiercest critics in the House.

President Trump wrote on Twitter almost immediately after Amash announced his decision to abandon the party to laud the congressman’s departure.

“Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is ‘quitting’ the Party,” Trump tweeted. “No Collusion, No Obstruction! Knew he couldn’t get the nomination to run again in the Great State of Michigan. Already being challenged for his seat. A total loser!”

The five-term congressman who rose up during the wave of the Tea Party in 2010 has developed a reputation in Congress as one of the institution’s most ideologically libertarian members earning him a large committed following of libertarians and younger conservatives.

The Congressman’s most recent moves to call for the president’s impeachment and to leave the Republican Party have prompted further speculation into whether Amash, who has been openly considering the possibility, is planning to run for president, either in the Republican primary or as a Libertarian seeking a third party’s nomination for 2020.

Amash has been critical of the two-party system, urging voters in his Washington Post op-ed to leave the party to rise up against the status quo that dictates American elections.

“I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system—and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it,” Amash wrote.

Former Congressman Mark Sanford

Sanford announced this week that he will be taking the next month to decide whether to mount a primary challenge against President Trump for the GOP nomination next year.

One of the most fiscally conservative members of the Republican caucus while serving in in the House, Sanford cited the nation’s finances as his primary motivation for wanting to jump into the race.

“I’m a Republican. I think the Republican Party has lost its way on debt, spending, and financial matters,” Sanford told the Post and Courier, a Charleston newspaper.

Sanford’s announcement this week was welcomed by Amash, who told CNN that Sanford “would be a great candidate.”

“I know Mark. He’s thoughtful, he’s humble, he’s learned from his mistakes and grown, and I think we really need a person like that in the White House,” Amash added.

Amash however, rejected the idea of running as Sanford’s running mate in the Republican primary.

“I don’t want to get involved in the Republican primary in that way,” Amash said to CNN.

Sanford’s challenge against the president would come about a year after the president publicly endorsed the former congressman’s primary challenger in 2018, Katie Arrington, in a relatively close race that ultimately removed the incumbent congressman from office. Arrington proceeded to lose the general election to Democrat Joe Cunningham in the fall, making the South Carolina district one of 40 seats to flip into Democratic control in the 2018 midterm elections.

Sanford, 59, served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001 prior to winning his seat back in a closely watched 2013 special election. Before his electoral comeback in 2013, Sanford served as South Carolina’s governor from 2003 to 2011, during which the governor became embroiled in scandal as details of an extra-marital affair involving secret taxpayer-funded overseas trips surfaced with an Argentine mistress.

The scandal surrounding the affair prompted Sanford’s resignation as chair of the Republican Governors Association and drew impeachment proceedings in the state legislature but the charges were eventually dropped and Sanford finished serving out the rest of his second term.

Sanford endorsed Trump in 2016 but was critical of the president while serving in the House.

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld

In April, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld became the first to announce his candidacy for president challenging Trump for the Republican nomination.

In 2016, Weld ran for vice president on the Libertarian ticket with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson but essentially endorsed Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the final weeks of the campaign.

In answering a question from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on whether people should vote Libertarian in the upcoming elections, Weld contrasted the two major party candidates and praised Clinton.

“I have a lot to say about Mrs. Clinton that has not been said by others recently and that I think needs to be said,” Weld said. “I mean I’ve known her for 40 years. I worked with her, I know her well professionally. I know her well personally. I know her to be a person of high moral character. A reliable person and an honest person, however Mr. Trump may rant and rave to the contrary.”