But Yoshinaka told me that the opposition Amash faces from his former party isn’t that shocking, especially now that he’s decided to run as an independent. “One reason why it’s generally difficult for a member to shed a party label is that the switcher typically faces stronger-than-normal opposition from his or her previous party in the immediate aftermath of the switch,” Yoshinaka said. “Their former supporters will be extremely eager to defeat them, especially in their first attempt at reelection.” And in light of Amash’s standing among Republicans and the associated difficulties with seeking renomination, running as an independent might give Amash his best shot of winning reelection, considering his resources and built-in name recognition.
However, running as an independent means Amash will likely face both a Republican and a Democrat in November 2020. One reason why things worked out for Byrd and Goode is that they faced little or no opposition from one major party, respectively, when they sought reelection as independents. But Amash could have a true three-way race for a seat that while Republican-leaning — Trump carried it 52 percent to 42 percent in 2016 — still has a sizable number of Democrats. Yoshinaka pointed out that both parties will probably view the election as winnable, so they’ll expend resources in the district. “As a result, I’d be surprised if he were to win reelection as an independent, though of course it’s not impossible,” Yoshinaka said. In today’s polarized political environment, it also will be difficult for Amash to attract many dissatisfied Democrats and Republicans.