Maybe because it’s April 2018? True, Donald Trump has informally insisted that he’s running again, and a Trump 2020 campaign committee has already begun working on a re-election bid. For most Republicans contacted by CNN about their 2020 dance card, though, they’re looking at the election directly ahead of them before deciding whether to re-up for a second Trump run:
A wide array of House and Senate Republicans are not yet ready to endorse President Donald Trump’s bid for a second term, a reflection of the deep uncertainty on Capitol Hill over his political standing amid growing problems at home and abroad.
In interviews with a cross-section of more than two dozen GOP lawmakers, ranging from rank-and-file members, conservatives and party leaders, many refused to say they’d back Trump’s re-election bid — a surprise declaration given that members of Congress are typically quick to endorse sitting presidents of their own party without hesitation. Hardly any would offer a categorical endorsement of the President.
“I don’t know what the world is going to look like,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, when asked if he’d endorse Trump for re-election. “But let’s say it’s not something I’ve given any thought to.”
Manu Raju notes that it’s unusual for members of a president’s party not to rally around a re-election bid. True, but it’s also unusual for a president to “announce” this early, especially in front of a midterm. Go figure that Republicans on Capitol Hill might be more focused on holding their majorities than worrying about who they’ll endorse for the next election.
Even with Trump’s informal announcement, most of the demurrals that CNN got are based on uncertainty over Trump’s actual intentions for 2020. For instance, retiring Sen. Bob Corker suggests to Alisyn Camerota that Trump may not be serious about running for re-election, at the 6:20 mark:
Chris Cuomo pressed this immediately with Sen. Ron Johnson, who also attended the same Syria briefing that Camerota discussed first with Corker. Johnson calls it a “gotcha question,” to which Cuomo feigns offense, but Johnson says he’s much more focused on both the upcoming election and current policy:
It takes Cuomo three minutes to let this go, finally relenting after Johnson makes the salient point that it’s pretty unusual for a media outlet to be so focused on an election subsequent to the one coming up.
It’s unusual, all right, but is it unfair? Eh, not really. Trump disrupted the pattern by making the unofficial announcement about his re-election bid and launching the campaign as early as he did. That makes it fair game for media outlets, and it puts other Republicans on the hot seat to choose between committing to Trump or pointedly leaving options open. These GOP figures are opting for Curtain Number Three, which is to operate on the pretense that Trump may choose not to run at all — a possibility, albeit a slim one. But it seems pretty clear that Trump made the unusual early announcement to force Republicans into commitments one way or the other, and the further along this goes, the more threadbare Curtain Number 3 will become.