A Bruised Trump Faces Uncertain 2020 Prospects. His Team Fears a Primary Fight.

Several prominent Trump antagonists are actively urging other Republicans to take on the president, and a popular governor, Larry Hogan of Maryland, has indicated he is newly open to their entreaties.

.. Privately, some of Mr. Trump’s 2016 aides have said they are pessimistic about his path to 270 electoral votes after his party’s midterm defeats in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. An Associated Press poll on Wednesday showed that Mr. Trump’s overall approval rating had fallen to 34 percent, with his support among Republicans dipping below 80 percent — a startling turn for a president who strives for total control of the G.O.P., and has usually achieved it.

..An Associated Press poll on Wednesday showed that Mr. Trump’s overall approval rating had fallen to 34 percent, with his support among Republicans dipping below 80 percent — a startling turn for a president who strives for total control of the G.O.P., and has usually achieved it.

.. The Mueller investigation looms as another destabilizing force for the president. David Kochel, a Republican strategist based in Iowa who is opposed to Mr. Trump, said the special counsel’s eventual report could determine whether Mr. Trump is vulnerable in a primary.

“That will be a focusing mechanism for the party,” Mr. Kochel said.

.. Mr. Trump captured the presidency with a largely improvisational candidacy, guided by his own instincts for personal combat and cultural division, and lacking the strategic discipline of most presidential campaigns.

.. But even among his own political lieutenants, there is a general recognition that Mr. Trump currently lacks anything resembling a positive message.

.. Mr. Trump is especially fixated on two well-known Democrats, speaking frequently about Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president whom Mr. Trump regards as his most dangerous potential opponent, and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Some of his advisers are more preoccupied with two other would-be challengers, who would offer a starker generational contrast with the 72-year-old president: Senator Kamala Harris of California and Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas Senate candidate.

.. Now a top aide on Mr. Trump’s campaign, Mr. Stepien and his deputies have been consulting party leaders about shutting off avenues to a challenge and ensuring that states cannot put forward “favorite son” candidates to contest the president’s renomination.

.. Mr. Trump has also dedicated a team of aides to guaranteeing that only political loyalists are elected to serve as delegates to the convention. To that end, Mr. Stepien dispatched some of his staff members this month to see that their preferred candidate remained in charge of the Maine Republican Party.

..Mr. Hogan spoke briefly with William Kristol, an implacable Trump critic in the conservative press, who argued that the president is weaker than widely understood

.. In addition to Mr. Hogan, William F. Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, is weighing a challenge to Mr. Trump as a small-government moderate, people who have spoken with him said. Mr. Weld, 73, who was the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2016, has discussed either opposing Mr. Trump in the Republican primaries or seeking the Libertarian presidential nomination.

.. Other Republicans known to be entertaining campaigns against Mr. Trump include John R. Kasich, the former governor of Ohio, who ran in 2016; Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska; and Jeff Flake, the former senator from Arizona. But Mr. Sasse is said to have grown uneasy about the idea, and Mr. Kasich and Mr. Flake are pursuing opportunities in television.

.. Bruce Berke, a Republican strategist in New Hampshire aligned with Mr. Kasich, said he currently saw Mr. Trump as unassailable in a G.O.P. primary.

“A primary challenge in 2020, as of today, would be futile for anyone,” Mr. Berke said.

Still, Republican donors will want to know just how damaged the president may be by the end of this year before they truly commit to a challenge.

Why the GOP needs someone — anyone — to challenge Trump in 2020

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.

What Happens to Bannonism After Bannon?

The President single-handedly turned the book from a racy tell-all that would have enthused the Beltway and media crowds into a must-have consumer product—the literary equivalent of a new iPhone

.. Not only did Trump put out a lengthy statement on Thursday bashing Steve Bannon, his former senior adviser, for coöperating with Wolff on his “phoney” book, his lawyers sent a letter to the publisher, Henry Holt, demanding that it halt publication. From that moment on, every self-respecting Trump hater in the country simply had to buy a copy.

.. a separate denunciation of Bannon from his longtime financial sponsor, the hedge-fund heiress Rebekah Mercer, who is a part-owner of Breitbart, the scrappy Web site that Bannon turned into a platform for Trump and the alt-right. “My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements,” Mercer said

.. “Bannon is resisting. He’s quite like Trump in this respect: he views any apology or admission of error as a sign of weakness.”

.. Trump thought the Mercers were as odd as everybody else thought. He didn’t like Bob Mercer looking at him and not saying a word; he didn’t like being in the same room as Mercer or his daughter. These were super-strange bedfellows—‘wackos’ in his description.”

.. not the demise of his ambitions to transform the G.O.P. into a nationalist/protectionist party modelled on the European right but the opening of a new front. Freed from the constraints of being inside the Administration, Bannon would be able to recruit candidates, raise money, and take down members of the Republican establishment.

.. Trump, in Bannon’s view, was a chapter, or even a detour, in the Trump revolution, which had always been about weaknesses in the two major parties

.. Trump was just the beginning.”

Trump Breaks With Bannon, Saying He Has ‘Lost His Mind’

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Mr. Trump said in the statement. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

Mr. Trump berated Mr. Bannon for the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama and said the former adviser did not represent his base but was “only in it for himself.” Rather than supporting the president’s agenda to “make America great again,” Mr. Bannon was “simply seeking to burn it all down,” Mr. Trump said.

.. “Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was,” he added. “It is the only thing he does well.

.. Mr. Bannon had said he planned to back a slew of candidates in Republican primaries this year to take down establishment incumbents he saw as insufficiently conservative, even if it clashed with Mr. Trump’s endorsements.

That did not seem to bother Mr. Trump and indeed struck many as a way for the president to keep Mr. Bannon as an outside hammer pressuring Republican lawmakers to stay in line.

.. But accusing the president’s eldest son of treason crossed the line, even for an inner circle of aides who regularly fought and privately disparaged each other.

.. The book presents Mr. Trump as an ill-informed and thoroughly unserious candidate and president, engaged mainly in satisfying his own ego. It reports that early in the campaign, one aide, Sam Nunberg, was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” it quoted Mr. Nunberg as saying, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”

.. According to the book, neither Mr. Trump nor his wife, Melania Trump, nor many of his aides actually expected to win the election in November 2016 and indeed did not really want to.

.. It describes a distraught Mrs. Trump as being in tears on election night, not out of joy, and said the new president and first lady were fighting on Inauguration Day.

 Comments:

Sarah Sandberg

Toronto 5 hours ago

It seems like the wheels are falling of the bus that is the Trump presidency. It is also interesting to note that anyone who leaves his administration and causes Trump to get negative coverage, was only a minor player.

Bannon – Minor player with a role that required the highest level of security clearance
Papadopoulous – Minor unpaid player who somehow managed to get photographed in a meeting with Trump
Flynn – Minor player with the administration a short time
Manafort – Minor Manager of his whole campaign.

I wonder who the major players are? Will Kushner be a minor player if/when he leaves?

NM

Poetic justice for both Trump and Bannon.
Trump wanted the counsel and company of an anarchist – well, no surprise, he got endless chaos.
Bannon wanted a loose cannon in our highest office – well, now it was turned on him.

Loren C

San Francisco 5 hours ago

Notice how Trump never refutes anything Bannon says; instead he just ridicules and attempts to minimize the man he previously clearly embraced as his closest advisor. Notice also that all of Trump’s other closest advisors and spokespersons, except his family members, are now gone and have been excommunicated (Manafort, Flynn, Priebus), and in every case Trump has tried, unsuccessfully, to distance himself from them as if they never had anything to do with his campaign. See a pattern?

 

Jeff Flake’s Defiant Surrender

Republican politicians throughout the age of Trump, and again and again they have chosen to die in the dark.

This was true of Trump’s strongest primary-season rivals, who fought him directly and concertedly during exactly one of the umpteen debates and then, finding open war hard going, chose to lose and bow out as though Trump were a normal rival rather than the fundamentally unfit figure they had described just a few short weeks before.

It was true of the party functionaries, the hapless Reince Priebus above all, who denied the residual Republican forces resisting Trump the chance to fight him one last time in the light of the convention floor.

..  It was true of Paul Ryan; it was true even of John McCain.

.. It was not true of everyone. Mitt Romney and John Kasich declined to fall on the sword of party unity; so did George W. Bush and his father; so did some governors and a few junior senators, Mike Lee and Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake.
.. while they refused to make the quietus, to strangle their own convictions in Trump’s ample shadow, they declined many chances to keep up the fight openly as well.
.. The nomination of a figure like Trump, a clear threat to both the professed beliefs of his party’s leaders and to basic competence in presidential government, is the sort of shattering event that in the past would have prompted a real schism or independent candidacy.
.. But Romney couldn’t talk Kasich into being that independent candidate, all the other possibilities demurred
.. Now, almost a year into the Trump presidency, a similar dynamic is playing out. There is a small but significant Republican opposition to Trump, but its leading figures still don’t want to go to war with him directly, preferring philosophical attacks and tactical withdrawal to confrontation and probable defeat.
.. To the extent that there’s a plausible theory behind all of these halfhearted efforts, it’s that resisting Trump too vigorously only strengthens his hold on the party’s base, by vindicating his claim to have all the establishment arrayed against him.
.. In the end, if you want Republican voters to reject Trumpism, you need to give them clear electoral opportunities to do so — even if you expect defeat
.. an anti-Trump movement that gives high-minded speeches but never mounts candidates confirms Trump’s claim to face establishment opposition while also confirming his judgment of the establishment’s guts and stamina — proving that they’re all low-energy, all “liddle” men, all unwilling to fight him man to man.
.. If Corker really means what he keeps saying about the danger posed by Trump’s effective incapacity, he should call openly for impeachment or for 25th Amendment proceedings
.. If Flake really means what he said in his impassioned speech, and he doesn’t want to waste time and energy on a foredoomed Senate primary campaign, then he should choose a different hopeless-seeming cause and primary Trump in 2020. George W. Bush should endorse him. So should McCain, and Corker, and Romney, and Kasich, and Sasse, and the rest of the anti-Trump list.
.. They should expect to lose, and badly, but they should make Trump actually defeat them, instead of just clearing the field for his second nomination.
.. And not only for the sake of their honor. The president’s G.O.P. critics should engage in electoral battle because the act of campaigning, the work of actually trying to persuade voters, is the only way anti-Trump Republicans will come to grips with the legitimate reasons that their ideas had become so unpopular that voters opted for demagoguery instead.
.. A speechifying anti-Trumpism, distant from the fray, will always be self-regarding and self-deceiving — unwilling to see how the Iraq War discredited both the Bushist and McCainian styles of right-wing internationalism, incapable of addressing the economic disappointments that turned voters against Flake’s Goldwaterite libertarianism and Romney’s “trust me, I’m a businessman” promises.
.. Only in actual political competition can the Republican elite reckon with why it lost its party, and how it might win again
.. I think the G.O.P. is more likely to be renewed by someone who currently supports Trump or someone not yet active in politics than it is by the men resisting the president today.

Erik Prince, Blackwater Founder, Weighs Primary Challenge to Wyoming Republican

Mr. Prince appears increasingly likely to challenge John Barrasso, a senior member of the Senate Republican leadership, according to people who have spoken to him in recent days. He has been urged to run next year by Stephen K. Bannon, who is leading the effort to shake up the Republican leadership with financial backing from the New York hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah.

.. While his ties to Wyoming are thin, the state is attractive to Mr. Prince because it has none of the personal political entanglements he would face in his home state of Michigan. Public records show that Mr. Prince, a former member of the Navy SEALs who has lived all over the world, had an address in Wapiti, Wyo., in the state’s northwest corner, for several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

..  For months this year, Mr. Prince — with Mr. Bannon’s support — pushed a plan to replace soldiers with contractors in Afghanistan. The proposal, which would have radically changed the way the fight in that country is conducted, was vehemently opposed by the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, and the defense secretary, Jim Mattis.

.. Mr. Bannon is expected to throw his support behind Chris McDaniel, a conservative state senator from Mississippi who is considering a primary challenge to United States Senator Roger Wicker, who has served since 2007 and is close to Republican leaders.

.. Mr. Bannon is also hoping to persuade Ann LePage, the wife of Maines outspoken governor, Paul LePage, to run for the Republican nomination to challenge Senator Angus King, an independent who is up for re-election in 2018.

Donald Trump Deepens GOP Divide

President’s turbulent week fuels frustration in his party, though core supporters remain loyal

President Donald Trump’s tumultuous past week has widened rifts in his party, between those who vocally support the president’s combative style and others who bridle at it ..

.. After a week that included the president attacking his attorney general, the collapse of a GOP health bill, a surprise effort to bar transgender people in the military and a White House staff shakeup, divisions that were largely set aside at the start of 2017 have emerged anew.

..“Particularly among some of my former colleagues in the House, there is a frustration and lament about opportunities squandered in what should be a prime time for a GOP legislative agenda,” said former Republican Rep. David Jolly of Florida.
..“They are going to stick with Trump—they like him the more combative he is and the more his back is against the wall,” he said. “He captured a very angry base, and Trump has mastered the suggestion that fighting and being angry is actually accomplishing results.”
.. Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) said that Republican leaders were complicit if they didn’t call out Mr. Trump for his behavior. “We can’t respond to everything,” he said. “But there are times when you have to stand up and say ‘I’m sorry. This is wrong.’ ”
.. On the other side are Republicans who echo Mr. Trump’s behavior and tone.Rep. Blake Farenthold (R., Texas) last week suggested that he would have settled differences with Ms. Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), who both made decisive votes against a GOP health plan, by challenging them to duels had they been male. Mr. Farenthold later apologized. Rep. Buddy Carter (R., Ga.), asked about Trump’s decision to attack Ms. Murkowski on Twitter over her “no” vote, used a confusing but coarse phrase that suggested resorting to physical assault.

.. Rep. Chris Collins (R., N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Mr. Trump, said that instead of turbulence, Mr. Trump last week “had one of the best weeks he has ever had.” Pointing to his calls to crack down on the street gang known as MS-13, Mr. Collins said that “he is addressing one of the scourges of America.”

.. Signs are emerging that the intraparty battle could threaten the party’s standing in the 2018 elections and the president’s beyond that. Mr. Jolly, the former Florida congressman, said he is part of a group discussing how to put together a primary challenge to Mr. Trump in 2020.
.. Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman and lieutenant governor of Maryland, said “the president is in his element when in front of a crowd of 40,000 instead of behind his desk dealing with the minutiae of governing. That’s not governing, that’s theater, a reality TV presidency.”