2020 primary challenger to Trump emerging?

Via the Daily Caller, I feel like a man who’s closely associated with the Republican establishment *and* support for the Iraq war might not be the man to knock Trump off in a primary.

But then no one else in the GOP is going to knock him off in a primary either. The point of running would be to give the media an excuse to have you on TV to make the case against POTUS and to give anti-Trump Republicans a place to park votes, with zero prospects of attracting more than 5-10 percent in any actual primary. So what does it matter who the specific primary challenger is?

Bill Kristol, the former editor-in-chief of The Weekly Standard, is considering challenging President Donald Trump in the 2020 Republican primary.

Kristol, who is consistently one of the most vocal anti-Trump Republicans, has been considering a run for months, a source familiar with Kristol’s thinking told The Daily Caller News Foundation…

Kristol previously sparked 2020 rumors in March when he popped up in New Hampshire to speak at “a must-show event for potential presidential contenders,” as Inside Sources noted at the time.

Kristol has consistently said that Trump needs to face a 2020 primary challenger. “We need to take one shot at liberating the Republican Party from Trump, and conservatism from Trumpism,” Kristol told the New York Times in August 2017.

Kristol told the Caller that he has “no plans to run,” which isn’t quite the same thing as ruling out running. You may remember that he spent months in 2016 trying to recruit a conservative third-party challenger to Trump before settling on NRO writer David French, who nearly took the plunge before declining. Now Kristol himself is considering taking the plunge if the DC is to be believed. If you asked me to make a list of job descriptions most likely to attract interest from a populist right-wing electorate, “writer for mainstream conservative periodical” would be literally last on that list.

It’s a testament to how futile this process is, in fact, that the anti-Trump faction on the right has such difficulty finding a person willing to do it even on a lark. Money is a major obstacle, of course, but that’s one area where someone like Kristol could help. A primary challenger isn’t going to rake in nine figures but there’ll be enough antipathy to Trump among Republican donor networks (particularly as the trade war and border-security effort heat up) that a few million would doubtless be available to put the word out. Go find a businessman or a farmer who’s been hit hard by Trump’s trade policies and who prefers a more classical version of conservatism to Trump’s demagoguery and run that guy. He’ll still get utterly crushed but Trump acolytes will struggle to find reasons to give him the Emmanuel Goldstein treatment. And the media would fall in love instantly with the idea of an average American rising up from nowhere to challenge a president they hate.

But that candidate probably doesn’t exist, for an obvious reason. When the smoke clears and Trump has won all 50 primaries by 85 points, that guy will have to go back to his business having made an enemy of the White House and every last one of Trump’s most cultish supporters. It could ruin him and his family. Why bother?

The likeliest primary challenger for Trump remains Ben Sasse, if only because Sasse’s chances of reelection to the Senate get slimmer every time a Trump-backed challenger surges to victory in a Republican primary. Sasse is up for reelection in 2020 and will obviously face a populist primary opponent supported by Trump; there’s no reason to think he can overcome that challenge. Fortunately, you get the sense from Sasse that he doesn’t love his job and wouldn’t be broken up to lose it, as he spends most of his time in floor speeches lamenting the sad state of the GOP specifically and of Congress and the country more broadly. If Trump’s going to send him into retirement anyway, he might as well skip the reelection run and primary Trump instead. He’ll get crushed too but he’s an articulate spokesman for conservatism and an appealing guy. He’d probably pull more votes than any other realistic primary challenger would. And he’d earn the gratitude of whatever’s left of the Trump-skeptical conservative movement. Sasse seems like a guy with his values correctly prioritized; if he lost a few friends due to his affront to MAGAism, I suspect he’d shrug and conclude those weren’t friends worth having anyway.

Here’s Kristol a few days ago slamming House Republicans for weighing impeachment for Rod Rosenstein.

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