While Donald Trump’s messaging resonates with a very hardcore part of his base, he’s an incredibly unpopular President among the general population. The most recent Gallup poll placed his approval rating at 38%. In November’s midterms, congressional Republicans were soundly defeated, losing 40 seats to Democrats.
The party has more moderate politicians like Nikki Haley and John Kasich who may challenge Trump for the nomination. In order to survive any challenges, Trump will have to win state primaries. South Carolina, a key early primary, may make this easier for Trump by canceling the process altogether.
Drew McKissack, Chairman of the South Carolina GOP, told the Washington Examiner, “We have complete autonomy and flexibility in either direction. Considering the fact that the entire party supports the president, we’ll end up doing what’s in the president’s best interest.”
This statement by McKissack is an oversimplification. The party does largely support Trump, but there are also a number of prominent Republicans who have left the party because of him. This includes prominent figures like Bill Kristol, Max Boot, and Rick Wilson. The blue wave during midterm elections also indicated just how much ground the party has lost with minority and women voters.
John Kasich is likely to run against Trump. He recently said in an interview, “We need different leadership, there isn’t any question about it. And I’m not only just worried about the tone and the name calling and the division in our country and the partisanship, but I also worry about the policies.”
While Haley has said she is not running in 2020, prognosticators are not so sure. She is a respected leader who may be the GOP’s best hope.
Their challenges may be moot, however, if South Carolina and other states move to protect the president. It is largely at their discretion to do so. Matt Moore, who previously served as the Chair of the South Carolina GOP, said, “Pigs will fly before the South Carolina GOP allows Trump to have opposition.”