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Meet the Republicans Likely to Challenge Trump in the 2020 Primary

The Democratic 2020 primary is a crowded field, but regardless of who takes the nomination, President Donald Trump will face a battle before election day.

Those running a primary campaign against a sitting president have little chance of success—the only elected president to lose his bid for a second term in the following primary was Franklin Pierce in 1857, according to NPR—but that doesn’t mean their campaigns won’t have an impact.

Presidents who face a reputable challenge in the primary frequently lose reelection, even after winning their party’s nomination; a divided party is less likely to turn out the votes needed. The last time this happened was in 1992, when President George H. W. Bush lost reelection to Bill Clinton after facing a far-right candidate in the primary.

These are the Republicans who are likely hoping against the odds to go somewhere in the 2020 primary.

Harvard Goldsmith Awards With Martha Raddatz
Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld asks a question of Martha Raddatz who received the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism at Harvard University’ Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy on March 6, 2018 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Paul Marotta Getty Images

William Weld

Weld announced his candidacy for president on April 15. His campaign launch video touts his successes after becoming the first Republican governor of Massachusetts in nearly 20 years in 1991, a win that rebooted a conservative trend in the majority blue state (since he left office in 1997, only one Democrat has sat beneath Boston state house’s golden dome). As governor, Weld says he cut taxes 21 times, balanced the state budget, and instituted work requirements in the welfare system.

While he’s economically conservative, Weld supports abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and climate change action—all traditionally liberal positions that could distance him from Trump’s base. On healthcare, Weld opts to reform the Affordable Care Act to provide a free market with more choices.

He may also face criticism for a lack of party loyalty. While Weld maintains that his beliefs never changed, he ran on the 2016 Libertarian ticket as Gary Johnson’s vice president. In 2008, he endorsed Democratic candidate Barack Obama for president over his party’s John McCain. Four years later, he reversed again to endorse Mitt Romney over Obama.

Moreover, Weld has long been a critic of Trump. During the 2016 election, he likened Trump’s immigration policy to Nazi Germany. He also told CNN at the time that he didn’t believe Trump has “the temperament or the stability” to be president. More recently, he told Rolling Stone that the president is a “malignant narcissist” that’s “kind of like that crazy clown in A Clockwork Orange.”

This sentiment has carried into Weld’s campaign: his launch video, more than three minutes long, dedicates a sizable portion to clips of Trump’s most controversial moments. He shows Trump’s support of “both sides” after the deadly Charlottesville protests, his friendliness towards Russian President Vladimir Putin, the infamous Access Hollywood tape where Trump admits to sexually assaulting a woman, and more.

With his bid for presidency, Weld is offering “a better America.” Even if he can’t win the primary, Weld told Rolling Stone he’d “be flattered to be Kennedy to [Trump’s] Carter,” referring to the 1980 election where Sen. Ted Kennedy ran a primary campaign against President Jimmy Carter, leading the incumbent to lose the White House to Ronald Reagan.

Former Ohio governor John Kasich speaks at Long Island college
Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, a 2016 Republican presidential contender, speaking at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, New York on April 10, 2019, about “Healing Our Political Divisions.” Newsday via Getty Images

John Kasich

After running a failed presidential primary campaign in 2016, former Ohio governor Kasich is considering another bid. He has yet to officially announce his candidacy, but hasn’t ruled it out either.

Kasich’s record is traditionally Republican in many ways: he defunded Planned Parenthood in Ohio, advocates for lower taxes, and supports the Keystone pipeline (although he says climate change is a real threat, a reversal from his 2016 stance). He also wants to revise the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicaid. In terms of same-sex marriage, Kasich says he accepts the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Like Weld, Kasich also has a few beliefs that lean moderate. He supports Dreamers (those who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children) and the issues surrounding Black Lives Matter. While he wants to protect the Second Amendment, Kasich has also advocated for background checks and increased attention to mental illness.

Kasich told the Associated Press that he supports Trump’s moves towards increased border control, lower taxes, and greater financial contributions from European allies, but in many other ways he disagrees with the sitting president.

“Tariffs are a bad idea. Debt is a bad idea. Family separation is a bad idea. Demonizing immigrants is a bad idea. And breaking down our alliances is bad too,” Kasich told the AP in December.

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