But just because Trump seems dominant today doesn’t mean that anti-Trump principles — family values, for instance, or suspicion toward Russia, or deficit reduction, or simple decorum — can’t find an audience in a 2020 primary.
.. Most Republicans like the state of Trump’s GOP just fine; there is no groundswell for a #NeverTrump-er to rescue the party. In the most recent CNN/SSRS poll, the president’s approval rating among Republicans was 86 percent.
.. The GOP may or may not face danger at the ballot box in 2018 and 2020, but it is doomed in the long run if no Republican stands for the principles that the party has for so long said it defends: governmental restraint and individual liberty.
.. since 1968, serious primary challengers to incumbent presidents have been one of the more effective vehicles to push a party to change its ideas, rethink its core constituencies and remake its platform.
.. Eugene McCarthy, Ronald Reagan, Edward Kennedy and Pat Buchanan helped sink the incumbent’s reelection chances and alter their parties’ direction over the long term.
.. Reagan’s spirited 1976 challenge to President Gerald Ford pivoted the GOP toward the former California governor’s anti-big-government, hawkish views.
.. Kennedy ran on the idea that Carter had abandoned Democratic principles of using government to lessen income inequality and fight for the underdog. “It’s time to have a real Democrat in the White House again,” he declared in 1979.
.. By defeating Carter in New York and Connecticut, Kennedy shifted the party template to one that fit with Northeastern liberalism and further weakened the Democrats in the South.
.. In the long run, Kennedy’s campaign cemented Democrats as the party of traditionally disenfranchised minorities, helped give it an electoral advantage among women and sought (with mixed success) to put economic inequality at the center of its platform.
.. Buchanan used his 1992 race against President George H.W. Bush to keep an alternate tradition alive within the GOP. Buchanan’s bid, in retrospect, was a marker on the road to Trumpism.
.. should someone like Kasich mount a third-party bid, he could split the anti-Trump general-election vote and hand Trump another term.