Report: Michigan poll shows Justin Amash trailing primary challenger by 16

Nothing would better encapsulate the GOP’s political turn over this past decade than watching the most hardcore small-government Republican in Congress get obliterated in a primary because he’s worried that the president committed a crime.

I wonder if he’ll stick around and accept this beating as a matter of principle or announce his retirement before the election. If he retires, he’ll spare himself the embarrassment of defeat but be seen as running from a fight. If he runs again, he’ll show that he’s defiant to the end but very likely end up humiliated on Primary Day, to Trump’s great satisfaction.

Alternate possibility, of course: Retire from Congress and run for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination.

I can’t find the crosstabs and the MIRS website is paywalled but Daily Kos says the sample was of 335 likely GOP primary voters, which is smallish. Notably, the poll didn’t include a third candidate who’s running. That’s Amash’s best hope for a victory — draw more pro-Trump, anti-Amash candidates into the race, hope that the majority of Republican voters splinter among them, and win the nomination with a plurality.

Although, given the state of the party, it’s possible that anti-Amash GOPers would cross over and vote Democratic in the general election just to spite him. Of course, it’s possible that pro-Amash GOPers will do the same thing in annoyance if someone unseats him in the primary. Remember, the last time Trump targeted a small-government Republican critic for political destruction, that seat ended up in Democratic handsIn South Carolina. Before that he had plenty of unhappy things to say about anti-Trumper Jeff Flake, who chose not to run again rather than be crushed in his own primary. That seat also ended up going Democratic in what’s normally a red state.

Turmp might be willing to see Amash’s seat turn blue as the price of expelling him, though. Per Politico, he sounds pretty excited about revenge here.

Trump and his top advisers have discussed the prospect of backing a primary challenge to the Michigan lawmaker — a highly unusual move for a president against a member of his own party that would effectively amount to a warning shot to other Republicans thinking of crossing him. The conversations come as the billionaire DeVos family, which has deep ties to the administration and remains one of Michigan’s most powerful families, has announced it will cut off the congressman. That move could send a signal to other conservative donors deciding whether to invest in Amash.

Trump has raised the primary challenge idea with Vice President Mike Pence and North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, a close Trump ally who co-founded the conservative House Freedom Caucus with Amash. Trump has also addressed the subject with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, a former Michigan GOP leader who remains influential in the state…

Amash is not the only sitting Republican incumbent that the Trump team has its eye on. Trump advisers are growing increasingly annoyed by Texas Rep. Will Hurd, a frequent critic of the president’s immigration policies.

Supposedly he’s even been sniffing around to see if there’s interest in primarying Thom Tillis in North Carolina, even though Tillis has been terrified of crossing Trump on key votes for months for fear of exactly that. (Tillis famously reversed himself after initially opposing Trump’s emergency decree at the border, then came out in favor of Trump’s Mexico tariffs last week.) The strategic argument for all of this is that muscling a critic occasionally helps keep them aligned behind the president’s policy priorities. Making an example of Sanford helped bend Tillis to Trump’s will on immigration; making an example of Amash will minimize Republican defections on impeachment if it ever comes to that. That’s the theory. But is it the reality? Trump doesn’t need to oust Amash for House Republicans to understand that impeachment is a career-threatening vote. There’s a reason why no one besides Amash himself has spoken up in favor of it so far, after all. I don’t think this is strategic on Trump’s part, I think this is just who he is. If you cross him and it’s within his power to ruin you, even if it means the other party is likely to benefit from it, he’ll do it. Remember what his favorite Bible verse is? It’s no more complicated than that.

In lieu of an exit question, read David Harsanyi on why Amash would be an awkward fit ideologically as an independent presidential candidate for the sort of center-right figures that populate what’s left of Never Trump. That’s true, but he’s overthinking it. Amash is a worrisome third-party challenger for Trump potentially because he’s an unusually bold spokesman for the two camps that typically make up the base of support for Libertarian Party candidates. One is libertarians themselves; to them, Amash’s ideological credentials are impeccable. The other is righties of various stripes who crave a Republican who’ll confront Trump unapologetically. Amash distinguished himself spectacularly in that regard with his impeachment stance. Both libertarians and anti-Trump GOPers should be more eager to vote for him for their own reasons in 2020, I suspect, than they were to back Gary Johnson and Bill Weld in 2016. Amash would still end up in single digits but each extra percentage point matters. Especially in Michigan.