Donald Trump has frequently out-polled any challenger, with just over 20% of voters saying they want to see a new leader
Republicans who say they won’t challenge Trump in 2024 freeze primary before it even begins
Republican party leaders in states around the country have frozen their primaries in 2019, giving themselves time to weigh their options about what role they will play in the midterms in November.
Republican Party leadership in states such as Florida, Nevada, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina have all decided to keep their respective primaries under the 20% mark in 2019, electing only the winners and thus preventing any challenger to a sitting Republican president from garnering sufficient numbers of votes to secure a spot on the ballot.
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Possibly sensing an opportunity, Democrats have also toyed with a switch in timing for their primaries, most likely in 2020. By some estimates, the GOP wait could cost the party up to $150m.
It remains unclear if it will count as genuine unity among Republican leaders, however. Some grassroots Republicans have called for a more explicit rebuttal to the leadership and potential party elders, telling them to step down immediately.
“@realDonaldTrump as the person of the party needs to be first and foremost and we can rally around that,” wrote Howard Chamberlain, of Oklahoma, on Twitter, in response to the news. “Or the RNC can continue to stink up the place.”
The Trump administration has had some troubles with Republican members of Congress, primarily when it comes to the confirmation of supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Following the Kavanaugh hearings, Paul Nehlen, the Republican nominee for Wisconsin’s congressional race in 2018, threatened to run as an independent. Nehlen, who lost to Democratic congressman Ron Kind in a close race, called for the Republican party to “disown” the administration and replace Trump in 2020.
The president, who remains popular with GOP primary voters, most likely assumed he would not face a viable challenger in the election.
According to polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight, Trump has done well among primary voters, with Republicans around the country giving him a relatively high approval rating of just over 40%. The only Republican presidential candidate to come close to matching Trump in support among primary voters was Ronald Reagan in 1980, with a rating of 42%. Trump’s polling among primary voters has also been consistent since his 2016 primary campaign, something that has not been the case for previous GOP presidential candidates.
In late 2017, New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s name was floated as a possible GOP challenger to Trump in 2020. Christie, who has not endorsed Trump, has repeatedly raised doubts about Trump’s ethics, particularly when it comes to the $130,000 he allegedly received from the porn star Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.
“I think his ethical issues and his personal ethics are in the eye of the beholder,” Christie said in January, referring to Daniels. “But he’s the president, and I guess I’m not surprised he’s complaining.”
Trump had to issue a non-denial denial when asked whether Daniels’s allegations made it a conflict of interest for him to accept the fee. “No. I could handle it,” he said.
“I don’t know if we should disclose it or not,” Christie added at the time. “I would withhold judgment until we see how it plays out.”
Trump advisor Steve Bannon with Nikki Haley at a Trump rally in September 2017. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA
Other potential Republican challengers who are Trump skeptics include Newt Gingrich, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and Steve Bannon, who was ousted from his position as Trump’s chief strategist in August 2017.