Who is Trump’s Biggest Nightmare?

Despite Trump’s apparent popularity within the Republican Party, the attacks most likely to harm him in the 2020 election will come, not from Democrats, but from other conservatives. Democrats will undoubtedly hit Trump with everything they’ve got. They’ll remind the public of his offensive statements, his idiosyncrasies, his alleged abuses of power, and his alleged moral corruptness.  Despite all of this, Trump will still have at least a fighting chance. Democrats can not take that fighting chance away, but Republicans may be able to. In particular, a select group of Republicans who may challenge him for the nomination could derail his reelection.

According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 1 in 3 Republicans would like to see someone besides Donald Trump as the party nominee for the next election [1]. Along with this shaky base, there are also many conservative elites that have continuously disagreed with Trump’s ideology and have sought alternatives every opportunity. These two weaknesses have combined to stir up a great deal of speculation about the possibility of a challenger. But who might that be?

Governor Larry Hogan

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has become the preeminent possibility for a Trump challenge. He is a traditional Republican and has sought to distinguish himself from Trump’s unconventional and bombastic style. He is also one of the few Republicans who has openly mulled a challenge to the President [2]. He has a family legacy of politics with a father who served three terms in the U.S. House [3]. Perhaps one of the few things he shares with Trump is business experience–he founded a successful real estate company in 1985.

Former Governor Bill Weld

Bill Weld is a former Republican Governor of Massachusetts and was the 2016 vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party [4]. He is also the only prominent Republican thus far to have set up an exploratory committee to run for president. He is expected to formally declare his candidacy in late April or early May. While he is a former Republican governor, his previous association with the Libertarian Party and his poor performance in the 2016 election will likely hinder him in a challenge to the president.

Governor John Kasich

As the Governor of Ohio, John Kasich has the bonus of being popular in a swing state. He has expressed some interest in challenging the president in the Republican primary [5] but has not appeared overly eager to enter the race. The governor lost his previous primary challenge to Trump in the 2016 election and it seems unlikely that he could be successful in a repeat given the fact that Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans are much higher now than they were then.

The chances of a successful Republican challenger to President Trump seem bleak due to his approval rating within the party and a lack of historical precedent for a successful primary challenger against an incumbent. There are no potential candidates which have the same level of name recognition and Republican voters are unlikely to want to weaken the party with internal fighting heading into the general election. Still, any of the contenders listed could do significant enough harm to Trump; facing criticisms from conservatives and moderates will make some Republicans less likely to turn out in support of him come the general election.


[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2019/01/29/National-Politics/Polling/release_542.xml?tid=a_inl_manual

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/18/maryland-gov-larry-hogan-considers-running-against-trump-in-2020-race.html

[3] https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-who-is-larry-hogan-20190201-story.html

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/mar/23/bill-weld-interview-trump-republican-2020-challenger

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Colton Quist

(Boise, Idaho) Colton is a political science major and business minor. He recently completed an internship with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington D.C. and intends on returning to D.C. for graduate school and to happily spend his days working in the federal government. He has a passion for critical writing, history, and everything political. He loves to spend his spare time reading the news or off-roading but enjoys nearly anything so long as it's with the people he cares about. ​

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Colton Quist

(Boise, Idaho) Colton is a political science major and business minor. He recently completed an internship with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington D.C. and intends on returning to D.C. for graduate school and to happily spend his days working in the federal government. He has a passion for critical writing, history, and everything political. He loves to spend his spare time reading the news or off-roading but enjoys nearly anything so long as it's with the people he cares about. ​

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