, Washington, United States, Jan 29 – Democrats are already furiously jockeying for position to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.
But will Trump actually be on the ballot two years from now?
With approval ratings hovering around 40 percent — even lower, according to some polls — speculation is mounting that Trump could face a primary challenge for the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump has shouldered much of the blame for a crippling government shutdown that failed to achieve his signature campaign promise — building a border wall with Mexico.
And Special Counsel Robert Mueller has not yet delivered the final report from his investigation into whether members of Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia to get him elected.
It is rare for an incumbent president seeking reelection to be challenged for the nomination by a member of his own party — but not unprecedented.
In 1976, Ronald Reagan, a former California governor, sought to wrest the Republican nomination from president Gerald Ford.
Four years later, president Jimmy Carter faced a tough but ultimately unsuccessful primary challenge from Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.
And in 1992, then president George H.W. Bush fended off an insurgent bid for the Republican nod by right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan.
All three incumbent presidents who faced a primary challenge — Ford, Carter and Bush — went on to lose the general election.
– Kasich, Hogan among names floated –
You have to go all the way back to 1884 to find the last incumbent who failed to win his party’s approval — an ailing Chester Alan Arthur, who lost the Republican nomination to James Blaine.
Although no Republican has come out so far and said that he — or she — would mount a challenge to Trump, several names have been floated.
Former Ohio governor John Kasich — who sought the Republican nomination in 2016, only to lose to Trump — is seen as one potential candidate.
The 66-year-old Kasich, a moderate Republican, has not ruled out a White House bid, telling students at the University of Florida last week that “all options are on the table.”
“I’m only interested in running if I can win,” The Gainesville Sun quoted Kasich as saying. “I’m not interested in running to damage someone else.”
Another politician being talked about is Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who easily won re-election in November as a centrist Republican in a heavily Democratic state.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that Hogan, 62, is “consulting with aides and national GOP critics of Trump about whether to pursue a White House bid.”
The newspaper said that Hogan, who has been an outspoken critic of the president, could appeal to “Republican dissenters who are seeking a less-polarizing alternative to President Trump.”
Hogan has apparently not made his mind up yet and the Post quoted people close to him as saying he is unlikely to run “unless Trump is severely weakened or decides not to seek a second term.”
– ‘We have a great record to run on’ –
Other Republicans who have been mentioned as potential primary challengers to Trump include retired Arizona senator Jeff Flake, 56, a vocal opponent of the president, and Utah Senator Mitt Romney, 71, who lost the 2012 presidential election to Barack Obama.
For the moment, Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans remain relatively high — around 80 percent.
Political analysts said those numbers will probably have to decline for any challenger to have a realistic chance of booting Trump from the 2020 ballot.
“At that point even a loyal Republican — candidate or voter — might come to believe that the only thing that would save the party is to have someone else lead the ticket,” wrote Paul Waldman of the Washington Post.
Amid the growing speculation, Mercedes Schlapp, the White House Director of Strategic Communications, was asked on Monday about the possibility of Trump facing a primary challenge.
“The president is ready for any candidate,” Schlapp said. “We have a great record to run on. We have a great story to tell.”