Friday, February 22, 2019


More hype for the notion that Donald Trump might face a serious primary challenge in 2020:
Thirty-nine percent of likely Republican voters in the Granite State said they think that President Trump should be challenged in the 2020 primary, according to poll results released today by the UMass Poll....

“While nearly 40 percent of all likely Republican voters believe President Trump should face a primary challenge, almost half of college-educated Republican voters believe that Trump should be ‘primaried,’” said Tatishe Nteta, associate professor of political science and director of the UMass Poll. “Given the comparatively higher levels of turnout among highly educated voters, these results do not bode well for Trump.”
But does this really matter? Poll respondents sometimes say they're in favor of a primary challenge even when they back the incumbent. That happened to Barack Obama, as Ed Kilgore noted in late 2010:
... mischief-making pundits have seized on a couple of polls to burnish their narrative: One is from AP/KN in late October, showing that 47 percent of Democrats want the president to be challenged by another Democrat in 2012 (with 51 percent opposed); and one came from McClatchey/Marist just before Thanksgiving, showing 45 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents favoring a primary challenge (with 46 percent opposed).

Sounds pretty dangerous for Obama, right? Well no.... the very same AP/KN poll shows that three-quarters of Democrats want to see the president re-elected; i.e., they're not really discontented with Obama and they just like the idea of a primary that gives them options.
Some voters want a primary challenge for Trump the same way New England football fans want two teams in the Super Bowl -- it doesn't mean they want the Patriots to lose.

More important, the New Hampshire primary is not a Republican bellwether. In 2012, Ron Paul got 23% of the New Hampshire vote. Jon Huntsman got 17%. Together, they combined for more votes than the primary winner, Mitt Romney.

And what happened? Paul finished a distant third in delegates (he had 177, Romney had 1,575, Rick Santorum had 245), and fourth in overall poular vote (Newt Gingrich also beat him). Huntsman -- who's regarded as a right-centrist, like most of the Republicans who are being talked about as challengers to Trump -- never cracked double digits again in any state, and finished with a grand total of 3 delegates.

The Huntsman of 2016 was John Kasich. He finished second to Trump in New Hampshire, with 15.7% of the vote. But at the convention he finished fourth in delegates, far behind both Trump and Ted Cruz, and just behind Marco Rubio. Trump won 1,441 delegates; Kasich won 161.

Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, who seems serious about challenging Trump, is pro-choice and pro-LGBT rights; Larry Hogan, who also seems serious, is the popular GOP governor of the very blue state of Maryland. Not only aren't these two any threat to Trump, they'll cancel each other out in New Hampshire, and then their candidacies will go to die in the Bible Belt, where Trump is God.

But couldn't circumstances change the way GOP voters view Trump? Judging from that UMass poll, apparently not:
Asked if the Mueller report would make them reconsider their vote for Trump, just 22 percent said it would affect their support for Trump if the report concludes that Trump conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. Sixteen percent said it would affect their vote for Trump if the report concludes that Trump directed his attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie under oath to Congress. And only 14 percent said it would impact their vote for Trump if the report concludes that Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey and engaged in witness tampering.

“While the nation awaits the final report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, only a handful of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire will reconsider supporting President Trump in light of the potential revelations in the report,” Nteta said.
I know the president and his party are desperate to lock down the nomination before the primaries begin, but Trump would benefit from a challenge. He could come up with new nicknames for his challengers. GOP voters love that. He could portray his inevitable win as a victory over the media, which is inordinately fond of NeverTrump Republicans. He should be welcoming these guys into the ring.

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