Republicans Ask, in Private, Whether Anyone Can Challenge Trump
Author: Greg Valliere
July 16, 2019
NO ONE LIKES TO GET AMBUSHED, as Joe Biden will attest, and now the Republican party is angry after getting ambushed, once again, by Donald J. Trump. Increasingly, Republicans are asking in private: How much longer will we be required to defend the indefensible? GOP lawmakers are regularly mocked in the press for timidity, but that may be changing.
TRUMP’S OUTRAGEOUS CALLS for his critics to “go back to where they came from” channeled over two centuries of racist attacks against Irish, Italian, Jewish and other immigrants. Some of them brought unpopular political views to America, as do some of today’s immigrants, and Trump sees a foil to exploit.
WHY DID TRUMP LAUNCH THIS WAR? Two reasons, in our opinion: First, the Robert Mueller hearings, postponed until next Wednesday, are likely to be explosive. Mueller will be a reluctant witness, but we’re hearing that White House aides are bracing for a public relations disaster, and they wouldn’t mind a distraction. Second, Trump isn’t worried about unifying the fractious Democrats; he thinks he can brand the entire party as anti-American, and his base surely will agree.
PLAYING THE RACE CARD SO BLATANTLY will renew speculation about whether a prominent Republican will challenge Trump for the nomination. We continue to believe that a credible opponent could win up to a third of the vote in the early Iowa, New Hampshire and California contests — not enough to win the nomination but enough to send Trump a message and, perhaps, soften him up for the general election.
THE MOST LIKELY CHALLENGER WOULD BE MITT ROMNEY: Once you get the presidential bug, there’s no cure; everyone who has come close to winning wants to try one more time. Romney, sharp and fit at 72, could easily amass the funds to mount a serious challenge. We’re less convinced that John Kasich, Jeff Flake or any other Republican would have much of a chance. Nikki Haley is a major talent, but she’s only 47 and is content to wait until 2024.
THUS IT APPEARS THAT UNLESS ROMNEY JUMPS IN — he probably will not — there will be no serious challenge to Trump’s re-election. Thus he can tweet with impunity, but in the process he has further damaged his credibility in Washington and around the world (even Boris Johnson blasted Trump’s race baiting).
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE MARKETS? Not much; the stock market rose slightly yesterday. But this episode makes Democrats even less likely to deal with him, and of course they control the House.
SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI suddenly has a more unified caucus, and
she shot down Steve Mnuchin’s debt ceiling proposal last night. She’s unwilling to accept a temporary fix which would raise the ceiling for a few months while a bigger spending deal is resolved, so a crisis still looms. And she’s in no rush to confirm a NAFTA replacement.
WHAT’S CHANGED? It’s increasingly apparent that Trump is loathed by many Republicans, definitely in private and increasingly in public. Their criticism of him increased overnight, and they will further distance themselves from him if polls in the next week show Trump slipping. He has squandered a huge gift from the Democrats, who veered radically to the left in their recent debates. Now the issue, once again, may be Trump himself — which worries his own party.
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