Assuming no major revelations in the next year, Donald J. Trump is the predicted winner in 2020. The economy is healthy, he hasn’t started WW3, and many followers continue to support him religiously. Russian collusion, obstruction of justice, and other allegations have had no effect on The Donald. Where John Gotti was The Teflon Don of the 1980s, President Trump is the Teflon Don of the millennium. But there is one attack that could keep him from reelection: a primary challenge.
Bill Weld, the former two-term Republican governor of Massachusetts and VP candidate for the Libertarian Party in 2016 believes that he can win. He preferred Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, and one might expect similar sentiments in 2020, suggesting incentive to maximize damage to Trump’s campaign.
Justin Amash called for Trump’s impeachment, and with his recent break from the Republican Party, people are courting him to run on the LP ticket, despite a variety of candidates including Arvin Vohra, Adam Kokesh, and Kim Ruff. Libertarians are sour over Weld’s support for Hillary Clinton, and his famous pull-out of the New York governor’s race in 2006. Amash has no such baggage, a solid following, and on paper is a more principled constitutionalist. Where Weld expanded the state’s power, Amash has an A+ rating with the GOA, and introduced the Eminent Domain Just Compensation Act.
Can one of these men, or another challenger overtake Trump and the Democrats? If such a challenger cannot win, will they weaken him enough for an electoral upset?
Consider the failed attempts to beat President Trump at his own game in 2016. “Little Marco’s” comment about the size of Trump’s hands went limp, and low-energy “Jeb!” returned a low-five in the debates, signifying his beta status, further affirmed by his “please clap” request in a town hall meeting.
Weld, Amash, and others won’t get buy-in from MAGAs. Their best hope is to drive moderate Republicans and staunch Conservatives to the polls, by convincing them that the president is neither moderate nor conservative. They can point to his belligerent rhetoric, and sometimes leftist policies. It’s a compelling argument, but it’s not enough to defeat him.
Unlike his challengers in 2016, this reality star brought excitement to the 2016 race. Regardless of sentiment, people spoke about Trump more than any other candidate. He provided red meat to ravenous viewers, and the media rewarded him with nonstop airtime. To maintain this excitement, the GOP is protecting Trump from primary challengers in South Carolina and Massachusetts.
The left was triggered by Trump’s rhetoric, such as Mexico “not sending their best” and after eight years of Obama, the right loved it. Independents loved his promises to drain the swamp, and to rejuvenate coal mining in the rust belt, contrary to Hillary’s edited sound-bite promising to put miners out of work. His base trusted his experience as an entrepreneur, and with varying degrees of success, he kept many campaign promises.
Bill Weld had a fire in his belly in his younger years. He was raucous, jumped in a river, and advocated for gay rights before most Democrats. Yet that fire has become the dim flame of a policy wonk. His fiscall conservatism may win the votes of economic purists, but he’ll lose on gun control and intervention among libertarians, despite Trump’s bump stock ban and support for red flag laws.
Amash is different. He entered the arena with a Twitter storm to impeach Trump. He’ll get most libertarian policies right, other than his pro-life stance. Since leaving the Republican Party, he could balance his ticket on abortion and economics with a liberty-leaning Democrat or Republican as VP, but therein lies the problem with libertarian candidates; they try to please everyone and fail. Amash must embrace his inner conservative to win, even if he fails the Libertarian Purity Test.
Challengers may also have unexpected support from Democrats who register to vote in the Republican primary. They’ll vote for Weld, unless someone else enters, splitting the Never-Trumper and neo-“RINO” vote. To defeat Trump, there must be just one primary challenger, or a nasty campaign to obliterate all others.
There is one more scenario. Weld could damage Trump in the primary, setting the stage for Amash’s Libertarian run. He’d get support from lost Never-Trumpers and Libertarians. Howard Schultz could then shave off votes from both major parties, leaving more on the table for Amash. With an establishment candidate representing the Democrats, he may even pick up votes from nostalgic Bernie bros who haven’t completely embraced Che Guevera. This would depend on Bernie’s predictable defeat by Joe Biden or others, and a compelling argument for voting against the duopoly. This will require double Ross Perot’s popularity as a third-party candidate, and an electoral vote plurality.
For this to work, Amash must excite people to get off the couch on election day. His Twitter feed is filled with rational observations rather than excitement, as are his interviews and speeches. However, he did receive a bipartisan standing ovation at a Michigan town hall.
Justin Amash is a highly-skilled legislator. With coaching to turn his wonky jargon into fierce, yet factual rhetoric, and more standing ovations, he might earn enough media to defeat a man who has been in the TV business for decades.
No incumbent president has survived a serious primary or popular third-party challenge in recent history. But Trump is unique and may overcome a primary or strong 3rd party challenge. This doesn’t prevent positive outcomes. Weld could push Trump to promise to cut spending, to lower the national debt. Justin Amash could pressure him to be a better 2A advocate and to reduce foreign intervention. This tag-team could turn Trump into a better, more liberty-leaning President in 2020, and Amash could lay the groundwork for victory in 2024.
A primary, or successful LP challenge will serve as a litmus test on whether limited government has relevance for today’s GOP. Regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain: if you found entertainment value in the 2016 election, 2020 is sure to be a blockbuster.