Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday November 9, 2016
Even before 2016 is over, the race for 2020 is well underway
Long before the first polling places opened on Election Day 2016, the race for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination was already underway.
It has been unfolding in early primary states, where potential candidates have been introducing or reintroducing themselves. It has been on display in purple battlegrounds where they are helping in down-ballot contests. And behind the scenes, would-be contenders have sought face time with party power brokers eager to size them up.
“I think it’s already happening now,” said Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), a veteran GOP strategist. Cole identified another significant way the prospective candidates are laying a foundation: by embracing or shunning Donald Trump.
“You’ve seen some pretty dramatic reversals of people deciding they couldn’t be for Trump and they are for Trump. Now, part of that to me is about positioning for presidential contests.”
If Trump loses on Tuesday, Republicans will be forced to choose yet again from a full slate of ambitious candidates-in-waiting with wildly divergent visions for the party’s future. Even if Trump wins, he will begin his presidency far from safe against the threat of a primary challenge, since an ample cross-section of his party has already spoken out against him.
A Trump win would also likely set off a potentially chaotic scramble on the Democratic side to field a challenger in four years. Democrats have failed to build a robust bench during Obama’s presidency, in part because of the down-ballot drubbings the party has experienced in the midterms and partly because Clinton effectively froze the field as she considered her 2016 run.
No Republican has announced they are running in 2020 if Trump loses. Most have avoided even broaching the subject publicly, to avoid appearing presumptuous.
But interviews with more than a dozen Republican strategists, elected officials, donors and rank-and-file voters show that the party has already started pondering its future options and a recognition that the auditions have started.
Among the names most often mentioned are several failed 2016 candidates who eventually — and awkwardly — came around to supporting Trump: Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.).
Some see Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has held firm in his opposition to Trump after losing to him, as a possibility. Republicans are also intrigued by Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.), an early Trump critic. (Source: Washington Post)