Monday, August 26, 2019
WASHINGTON (AP) — "Never Trump" Republicans are eager to see the president confront a credible primary adversary. But the party will likely erect structural barriers that make that kind of challenge exceedingly difficult.
And for good reason: Every incumbent president for four-plus decades who has faced a serious primary opponent was weakened enough to ultimately lose re-election.
Joe Walsh, a former tea-party-backed, one-term congressman from Illinois, on Sunday joined Bill Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, on the lonely road to try to unseat President Donald Trump.
Other Republicans may join them. Mark Sanford, former governor and Republican congressman from South Carolina, has flirted with a 2020 presidential bid, and Republican ex-Ohio Gov. John Kasich is set to visit New Hampshire, which hsd the nation's first presidential primary, in September.
So far, none of them seems to pose a serious threat. The president's supporters note the ranks of outspoken "Never Trumpers" have dwindled substantially since Trump stormed a deep, 2016 presidential primary field of establishment Republicans and then toppled Democrat Hillary Clinton to win the White House.
Unlike some other incumbents who drew primary challengers, Trump now has the overwhelming support of his party's voters. Other incumbents – in both parties – "saw their base support erode a bit before re-election efforts," said Keith Appell, a Washington-based Republican strategist. "If anything, this president's support has grown within his party."
Weld has held out the prospect that a multicandidate Republican field might prompt primary campaign debates. But Republican National Committee members have done away with their standing debate committee ahead of next year's election, and scheduling debates could prove difficult since primary voting begins in about five months.