Some in GOP Consider Supporting a Primary Challenge to Trump - NBC Connecticut
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

The latest news on President Donald Trump's first year as president

Some in GOP Consider Supporting a Primary Challenge to Trump

The president's muddled response to a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville has emboldened his critics to talk about the once unthinkable

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    At a press event that was supposed to focus on infrastructure, President Donald Trump answered questions about violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. He again blamed both sides for violence and described counter-protesters as the "alt-left." (Published Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017)

    Mark Cuban isn't ready to launch a formal campaign to challenge President Donald Trump.

    Yet Cuban, an outspoken Texas billionaire who describes himself as "fiercely independent" politically, sees an opportunity for someone to take down the Republican president, who is increasingly viewed as divisive and incompetent even within his own party.

    "His base won't turn on him, but if there is someone they can connect to and feel confident in, they might turn away from him," Cuban told The Associated Press. "The door is wide open. It's just a question of who can pull it off."

    Indeed, just seven months into the Trump presidency, Republicans and right-leaning independents have begun to contemplate the possibility of an organized bid to take down the sitting president in 2020. It is a herculean task, some say a fantasy: No president in the modern era has been defeated by a member of his own party, and significant political and practical barriers stand in the way.

    Trump Responds to Violence in Charlottesville

    [NATL] Trump Responds to Violence in Charlottesville

    President Donald Trump responded to the violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    (Published Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017)

    The Republican National Committee, now run by Trump loyalists, owns the rulebook for nominating the party's standard-bearer and is working with the White House to ensure a process favorable to the president.

    Yet Trump's muddled response to a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this month has emboldened his critics to talk about the once unthinkable.

    GOP officials from New Hampshire to Arizona have wondered aloud in recent days about the possibility of a 2020 primary challenge from a fellow Republican or right-leaning independent. No one has stepped forward yet, however, and the list of potential prospects remains small.

    Ohio's GOP Gov. John Kasich has not ruled out a second run in 2020. Another Republican and frequent Trump critic, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, last month visited Iowa, which hosts the nation's first presidential caucuses. And a handful of wealthy outsiders including Cuban and wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, are being encouraged to join the fray.

    Trump's comments about Charlottesville "frightened" many Republicans in New Hampshire, said Tom Rath, a veteran Republican strategist in the state that traditionally hosts the nation's first presidential primary election.

    "While he has support from his people, the party itself is not married to him," Rath said of his party's president.

    Protesters Removed From Senate Health Care Bill Hearing

    [NATL] Health Care Bill Protesters Forcibly Removed From Senate Finance Committee Room

    Protesters chanting "No cuts for Medicaid, save our liberty!" were forcibly removed from the Senate Finance Committee room Monday as lawmakers attempted to convene a hearing into the Republican Graham Cassidy health care bill.

    (Published Monday, Sept. 25, 2017)

    Trump denounced bigotry after the Virginia protests, but he also said "very fine people" were on "both sides" of the demonstrations, which drew neo-Nazis, white nationalists and members of the Ku Klux Klan. One woman was killed when a man drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

    Even before the divisive remarks, Trump's public approval ratings were bad. Gallup found in mid-August that the president earned the approval of just 34 percent of all adults and 79 percent of Republicans. Both numbers marked personal lows. And as he lashes out at members of his own party with increasing frequency, frustrated Republican officials have raised questions about the first-term president's political future.

    On Monday, Maine Sen. Susan Collins said it's "too early to tell" whether Trump would be the GOP presidential nominee in 2020. On Wednesday, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said Trump's divisive governing style was "inviting" a primary challenge. And on Thursday night, former Sen. John Danforth, of Missouri, called Trump "the most divisive president in our history" in a Washington Post op-ed.

    "There hasn't been a more divisive person in national politics since George Wallace," Danforth wrote.

    Trump has also disappointed "The Rock," a former Republican-turned-independent, who told Vanity Fair in May that he'd "like to see a better leadership" from the Republican president.

    Trump's response to Charlottesville "felt like a turning point" among those thinking about 2020, said Kenton Tilford, a West Virginia political consultant who founded "Run The Rock 2020." He said the group has already organized volunteers in Iowa and New Hampshire.

    North Korean Minister: Trump Tweet Declared War

    [NATL] North Korean Foreign Minister: 'The United States Declared War'

    North Korea's top diplomat says President Donald Trump's tweet that leader Kim Jong Un "won't be around much longer" amounted to a declaration of war against his country.

    Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters Monday that what he called Trump's "declaration of war" gives North Korea "every right" under the U.N. Charter to take countermeasures, "including the right to shoot down the United States strategic bombers even they're not yet inside the airspace border of our country."

    Ri Yong also said that "all options will be on the operations table" for the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

    Ri referred to Trump's tweet Saturday that said: "Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!"

    (Published Monday, Sept. 25, 2017)

    "He's vulnerable," Tilford said of the president.

    Yet there is good reason why no sitting president since Franklin Pierce in 1852 has been defeated by a member of his own party. As is almost always the case, the most passionate voters in the president's party remain loyal. And in Trump's case, activists across the country are starting to come around.

    The president has personally installed his own leadership team at the Republican National Committee and in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, where new GOP chairmen are more devout Trump supporters than their predecessors.

    As RNC members from across the country gathered in Tennessee this week, leaders had already begun focusing on protecting Trump in 2020.

    RNC co-chairman Bob Paduchik, who ran Trump's winning campaign for Ohio last year, was named to lead an RNC effort to review the presidential nominating process in conjunction with White House political advisers.

    One possibility, last invoked during President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election, would allow party officials in some states to decide primary contests in closed caucuses without voter input. Such a change could make it all but impossible for another Republican to run a successful nationwide primary challenge.

    NFL Players Protest During National Anthem

    [NATL] NFL Players Protest During National Anthem
    AP reporters counted more than 200 NFL players who did not stand during the national anthem before their games on Sunday. Six refused to stand the week before, mainly protesting police brutality.
    (Published Monday, Sept. 25, 2017)

    Two members of the RNC rules committee, Bill Palatucci of New Jersey and Henry Barbour of Mississippi, said they've heard nothing of such an effort.

    RNC chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel suggested that the blowback for Trump's Charlottesville comments only reminded his hardcore supporters what they like most about him.

    "He's not filtered. He's not poll-testing everything. That's part of the appeal he has," McDaniel said. "He has a great understanding of the pulse of the grassroots Republicans right now."

    Other RNC members seemed more concerned about the president's statement that there were "very fine people" on both sides of the white supremacist rally.

    Palatucci said Trump "got it wrong" in his initial comments, but he stands by the president's agenda, especially business deregulation and his recent decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.

    Barbour said the confusion following Trump's response to Charlottesville was "a huge distraction." The president's future will brighten, he said, if the GOP-controlled Congress overhauls the tax code and approves sweeping public building projects.

    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    "If he doesn't get those done, we're going to have trouble," Barbour said.

    Yet few predicted a significant primary challenge in the most important early voting states.

    New Hampshire RNC member Steve Duprey said he's heard no serious talk of one. Said Iowa RNC committeewoman Tamara Scott, "I firmly stand behind my president."