Over the weekend, Jeb Bush encouraged the Republican Party to pose a challenge to President Trump’s reelection. “I think someone should run,” Bush noted. “Just because Republicans ought to be given a choice [between ideologies] that are dynamic, that focus on the world we’re in and the world we’re moving towards rather than [ideologies that] revert back to a nostalgic time.”
The former Florida governor, as you recall, received one delegate out of the required 1,237 necessary to secure the nomination during the 2016 GOP primaries. Trump, on the other hand, received 1,542 delegates en route to securing the nomination and ultimately the presidency. While Bush himself would likely fare terribly in a rematch against the president, we are left to speculate as to the nature of a potential challenge from another former rival.
If we frame the likelihood of a successful 2020 challenge within the context of the 2016 Republican primary, then several candidates float to the surface, none of whom, of course, are Jeb Bush. The most viable threat to the president would likely be Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who nabbed 563 delegates, the most of any candidate behind the president’s 1,542. Finishing third was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) with 167 delegates; and in fourth was Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) with 161.
While Sens. Cruz and Rubio are valuable assets to the GOP in Congress, they pose little threat to President Trump in terms of a 2020 primary considering the fact that they both failed to carry key states that voted for Trump including Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and California, among others. Gov. Kasich, for his part, is in the same boat having only won the state of Ohio in 2016.
Jeb Bush himself even noted the difficulty endemic to challenging President Trump, stating, “[H]e has a strong, loyal base [and] it’s hard to beat a sitting president.”
Let’s not beat around the Bush here, it is nearly impossible to upset an incumbent Commander-in-chief. Since 1900, only 5 incumbent presidents have lost reelection bids out of the 19 to seek a second term. Despite his unpopularity, it is going to be wildly difficult for Democrats to beat President Trump in 2020, let alone Republicans, particularly considering his numbers within the party.
According to Gallop’s most recent survey (Mar. 1-10), President Trump has a 90 percent job approval rating among registered Republicans; The Economist/YouGov (Mar. 10-12) reports 89 percent approval among Republicans and a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll indicates 93 percent approval among attendees. The numbers are tremendous, but polls can frequently be manipulated and inaccurate.
President Trump’s tangible influence over the GOP was truly brandished during the 2018 midterm elections after a plethora of Trump endorsements sent Republican hopefuls directly to office. The victories were so swift that these Trump protégées barely had enough time to unlock their lips from the president’s rear end before they were due to plant their own in a congressional seat.
Candidates endorsed by President Trump in 2018 were 16-1 in battleground states (56-40 overall). While President Trump’s sway with red-state voters is evident, his influence looms quite large over Congressional Republicans as well.
Last week, the Republican-controlled Senate voted to strike down President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in order to contain the power of the executive branch. While 12 Republicans joined the legislative mutiny, 41 Republican Senators still voted to uphold the president’s declaration, despite the fact that it was unconstitutional in the context utilized. In fact, many of those Senators even suffered from cold feet despite the warming spring weather.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), for example, had criticized President Trump’s national emergency declaration last month, noting that the “executive branch has taken too much power.” Then, of course, he voted to uphold President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency anyway. The reason Sen. Sasse turned on a dime is because President Trump wields a massive amount of influence among voters which he repeatedly utilizes to bludgeon GOP leaders into submission. Slighting the president is an effective means of being ousted from office come November; and the party knows it.
While Democrats will pose a genuine threat in 2020, it is highly unlikely that a Republican opponent successfully dethrones the president in a primary challenge. His numbers are solid, his influence quite evident. As it stands, President Trump owns the Republican Party; good luck trying to take it from him.