A columnist named Michael Tomasky, writing an opinion piece in The Daily Beast, believes that Joe Walsh’s Republican primary challenge against President Donald Trump could tip the scales favorably for Democrats.
How could a primary challenge that has nothing to do with Dems help them? Tomasky lays it out in simple terms. Noting that Walsh “is obviously not going to win” the nomination away from Trump, Tomasky also pointed out that the one-term former congressman has also “been a Rottweiler biting Trump’s corpulent ass” since he became president.
“Though he’s a pretty rabid right-winger, most of his tweets about Trump read as if they could have been written by anybody with politics more like mine,” Tomasky wrote, adding, “they’re almost entirely about what a lying, unprincipled hulk of condemned meat Trump is.”
The resulting outcome of a primary run against the sitting president? Walsh is running against Trump, and won’t vote for him if he’s the nominee. If even a small portion of Republican voters who back Walsh do the same, it could make “an enormous difference” in the 2020 election, Tomasky wrote.
Tomasky’s analysis makes a lot of sense. And there are historical precedents to back it up.
In the 1980 presidential election, incumbent President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, was challenged by another within his own party — Ted Kennedy, a senator from Massachusetts and heir to the Kennedy name. That challenge hurt Carter’s image in the long-run, and helped promote his Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan, in the general election. Political journalist Jon Ward even said that Kennedy’s run “broke the Democratic Party” in a book he wrote about the topic.
It’s happened to Republicans, too. George H.W. Bush was predicted to win a second term in office. His failure to do so was in part due to a third-party candidate, Ross Perot, running as well, but it also wasn’t helped by the fact that a far-right challenger to Trump, Pat Buchanan, ran against him in the primaries that year.
Buchanan lost, but was invited to give a speech about unity within the party at the Republican National Convention. By that time, however, the damage had been inflicted, and many didn’t see Buchanan’s speech as doing much of anything to fix it.
Tomasky’s analysis is spot in — although Walsh doesn’t have the pedigree of Kennedy or bona fides of Buchanan, he does have a substantial number of Republican devotees who agree with him, that the current president is a disgrace.
In spite of recent assurances from Trump that he has close to 94 percent support within the Republican Party, such numbers do not actually exist — in a Monmouth University poll released on August 22, for instance, Trump’s approval rating within the GOP is 84 percent, with 11 percent of Republicans disapproving of him and 5 percent unsure.
Again, Walsh is stating that he’s not going to vote for Trump if he’s the eventual nominee. If even a small number of those in the GOP who disapprove of Trump follow Walsh’s lead and sit on their hands in November 2020, it could spell disaster for Trump, particularly if the phenomenon occurs in rust belt states he won in 2016. That possibility is stronger with Walsh running than it is with him on the sidelines.
What’s unlikely to happen is for any Democrats to cross over and vote for Walsh in open primary states. Walsh’s politics are decidedly far-right, and with a crowded primary of their own to worry over, Dems would be foolish to back Walsh for president either way.
But Republicans who are wary of Trump — a minority, to be sure, but sizable enough to cause concern for him — could make this another year in which a primary challenge causes damage to the sitting president running for re-election.
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Chris Walker is a freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. A millennial with more than a decade of journalism experience, Chris aims to provide readers with the latest and most accurate news of national importance. Chris likes to spend his free time doing activities in his community with his family.