Wednesday, August 21, 2019


My first reaction to this Washington Post story story was that there's no difference between the aging white guys who want to run against President Trump in the 2020 primaries and the aging white guys who linger at 1% in the Democratic primary polls -- they're all just having midlife crises (or early-old-age crises) and should just buy sports cars if they want to feel potent and relevant.
Trump critics eye GOP primary race, even if defeating him seems ‘preposterous’

Joe Walsh, a pugnacious former congressman, is preparing a Republican primary challenge to President Trump that he previewed as a daily “bar fight” with the incumbent over his morality and competency.

Mark Sanford, a former South Carolina governor and congressman, said he is inching closer to a bid of his own by sounding out activists in New Hampshire and other early-voting states about an insurgency focused on the ballooning deficit.

Jeff Flake, a former Arizona senator and Trump antagonist, said he has taken a flurry of recruitment calls in recent days from GOP donors rattled by signs of an economic slowdown and hungry for an alternative to Trump.

And former Ohio governor John Kasich will head to New Hampshire next month to “take a look at things” after experiencing “an increase” in overtures this summer, an adviser said.

The anti-Trump movement inside the Republican Party — long a political wasteland — is feeling new urgency to mount a credible opposition to Trump before it’s too late. With state deadlines for nominating contests rapidly approaching in the fall, potential candidates face pressure to decide on running within the next few weeks. So far, only former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld has declared that he is running, but he has struggled to gain traction.
They'll all struggle to gain traction. This is an exercise in futility. Republican voters love Trump. They love him more than they've ever loved any other president, including Saint Reagan. (At this year's Iowa State Fair, where an attendee can "vote" for presidential candidate by depositing a corn kernel in a jar, Trump beat his one declared challenger, Bill Weld, 97%-3%.) A recession, which some of these guys think might lead to disillusionment with Trump among the base, won't get the job done -- the primaries will be over before a downturn will really start to sting. Also, Trumpers believe that recession talk is a Democratic plot.

The one reason a primary challenge might have merit is that the idea scares Trump.
Trump’s advisers and allies ... say the Trump campaign has built significant structural advantages that have effectively ensured he will be renominated at the party’s convention in Charlotte, such as placing loyalists in leadership posts at state parties and working closely with state GOP chairs to manage the delegate selection process.
That 97%-3% margin in Iowa will probably be replicated in the actual voting, in state after state -- and the challengers' individual vote totals will be even lower if there are several of them. Yet Team Trump has been trying to lock down votes he's certain to win. What's he worried about?

Well, it's Trump -- he's hypersensitive to the potential for embarrassment, even though embarrassment is highly unlikely. So his team is stacking the deck even though it's completely unnecessary.

And because he's Trump, he'll probably take the fight to these guys instead of ignoring them -- which will draw attention to their campaigns. He'll fight with them. He'll try to humiliate them. The Post story quotes Mark Sanford:
“If [Trump] gives you a nickname and has surrogates rough you up, you could get a message out and create a national conversation on what it means to be a Republican these days and that could probably be worth the endeavor,” Sanford said.
Kellyanne Conway has the appropriate response:
“There’s no discussion of any of them or any of that,” said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. “None of them even has risen to the level of a nickname.”
But Trump probably will give at least one of them a nickname. He's so thin-skinned he won't be able to help himself.

Ultimately, he'll probably overpromise -- "I guarantee you that guy won't get five vote in New Hampshire," I can imagine him saying -- and then the challenger will beat the (absurdly low) expectations.

In the end, Trump will win decisively -- but first he'll allow a bunch of unloved nobodies to land a punch or two on him, which could weaken him in the eyes of general-election voters.

Or maybe he'll be smarter than that. Maybe he'll show some restraint, in his own self-interest.

Restraint? Trump? How likely is that?

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