Republicans worried about President Trump’s bumpy first six months in office appear to be quietly setting up a Plan B for the party, with Vice President Mike Pence and Ohio Gov. John Kasich as potential presidential backups in 2020 — especially if the midterms are a disaster.
“If Republicans lose the House — even if they hold the House, but by a slim margin — I think you’ll see more and more activity from people, not necessarily being in open revolt, but positioning themselves to take advantage of the turmoil,” Republican strategist Brad Marston told the Herald.
“Given the Trump presidency so far and his popularity numbers,” Marston said, “I think anyone with political ambitions would be sounding out potential supporters and going on trips to Iowa or New Hampshire.”
A tough loss for Republicans’ repeal-and-replace efforts combined with a quickening Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller have some in the party quietly putting their ducks in a row, from Pence to Kasich and congressional Republicans.
Trump’s co-chairman in New Hampshire, Andrew Hemingway, attacked the quiet politicking as “politicians being politicians.”
“These bloodsuckers never miss an opportunity to latch onto something,” he added.
Pence has kept a full travel schedule and political dance card, The New York Times reported last night on the shadow campaign. His political fundraising group, Great America Committee, has raised more than double the president’s — pulling in more than $540,000 to Trump’s America First Action super PAC’s $204,000 this cycle.
Kasich, a prominent Trump critic, rolled through the Granite State earlier this year on a book tour that’s taken him across the country, while in interviews he’s refused to rule out a 2020 run. His campaign fund pulled in $336,000 in the first half of the year to keep Kasich on the national stage.
Also, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska have both visited Iowa in recent months.
Former New Hampshire GOP chairwoman Jennifer Horn said it’s too early to tell if Sasse or Cotton are looking at an early run for the White House — but their visits do bring out the crowds.
“Republicans are really hungry to hear that conservative message, to be reassured that we are still the conservative party,” Horn said. “People like Sen. Sasse and Sen. Cotton, who are very well accomplished and very well respected, have this great positive, reassuring message.”
Fergus Cullen, another former Granite State GOP chairman, said any shadow efforts to challenge a seated president likely wouldn’t take shape until after the midterms — when the party’s rank-and-file get a sense for how Trump in the White House serves them.
“The ground isn’t really going to firm up until after the midterm election because the majority of the base of the Republican party is with Trump,” said Cullen, a Trump critic. “Incumbent members of Congress are going to stay with him until they start losing elections.”
The editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, William Kristol, is reportedly in talks to establish a “Committee Not to Renominate the President,” the Times reported.
The task in 2020, Kristol said yesterday, is “liberating the Republican Party from Trump, and conservatism from Trumpism.”
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