A Danger To Trump?

The Briefing, Vol. VII, Issue 34 – This week:

  • Is Sanford’s challenge to Trump worth any more than Joe Walsh’s?
  • Marshall enters Kansas Senate race
  • Sensenbrenner to retire, opening seat with top GOP turnout


Mark Sanford: Last week, we looked at Joe Walsh’s rather improbable primary challenge to President Trump. The bottom line: Walsh’s chaotic and erratic personality makes Trump Twitter seem normal and dependable like a rock. If you have any sort of problem with Trump, then you will have twice as big a problem with Walsh, so his candidacy really isn’t something that Trump-skeptical Republicans are going to get behind.

Something similar — though not quite as scathing — could be said of former South Carolina Gov. and former Rep. Mark Sanford, who announced his challenge to Trump this week. Sanford’s career as a congressman represented his second life. His career as governor came to a disastrous end when he was not only discovered to be cheating on his wife, and lying to the public about it, but also proved incapable of expressing genuine contrition for his misdeeds.

Sanford thus nuked his career, his marriage, and even his relationship with his mistress, all in one blow. And his strange behavior continues with this decision to run for president.

To be sure, Sanford is no Walsh. His own personal failings aside, he has a clear and consistent libertarian-leaning political philosophy, whereas Walsh spent his career believing in whatever was most convenient.

Sanford was once considered a real possible presidential candidate, in fact. But his bizarre personality and his awful, scandalous personal story now represent a probably-insurmountable obstacle to his ever being a real contender for president. This makes his candidacy shrug-worthy.

Sanford also fails to qualify where it matters most politically. The one thing Trump’s Republican detractors have never managed to do is to find someone who can identify with and appeal to the Democratic-leaning working-class Trump voters who are widely credited with putting Trump into the White House.

Sanford is not as far from fitting this bill as Walsh or former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, but he’s still pretty far off. And again, his personal story starts him off at an immense disadvantage. It’s hard to see him posing any serious threat to Trump or to anyone else in politics.

Governor 2019

Colorado: Conservative campaigners collected only half the signatures they would have needed to put the recall of left-wing Democratic Gov. Jared Polis on the ballot. What’s more, there is no obvious Republican challenger who could take on Polis, now or in 2022.

The recall itself was never expected to go anywhere, in spite of conservative discontent with liberal gun and sex-ed laws. But it serves as a reminder that Colorado’s conservative movement and Republican Party have been eviscerated. This stands as a warning for next year’s Senate race, in which Sen. Cory Gardner, R, will be fighting for his life and possibly for the GOP majority.

Senate 2020

Georgia: Rep. Doug Collins, R, is reportedly already lobbying Gov. Brian Kemp for the appointment to Sen. Johnny Isakson’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat. The New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos notes that Collins’ appointment would begin a cascade of openings to key House positions that would allow strong allies of President Trump to be elevated to new and influential positions. 

Of course, Collins is just one possible choice. This will be a very important decision, given the high stakes in Georgia in 2020 — one for which Kemp must measure twice before cutting once.

Kansas: With so many people (including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) still focused on whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo might be convinced to run (not so far), Rep. Roger Marshall, R, jumped into the race. Marshall, who sported an ACU rating of 68 percent in 2018, is the most moderate congressman in the state delegation. 

Given a multi-way primary against mostly conservatives — including 2018 loser Kris Kobach, whose pathetic 2018 gubernatorial showing may scare away GOP primary voters — someone like Marshall, who is moderate but not necessarily part of the Kansas GOP’s moderate wing, could have a serious shot as long as Pompeo stays out. Marshall, recall, defeated conservative Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R, in a primary in 2016. 

Other announced candidates include Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, former Chiefs’ defensive end Dave Lindstrom, and gay conservative commentator Bryan Pruitt.

As the AP noted, probably only Pompeo has the name recognition to wait until the filing deadline next June before deciding to run. 

Massachusetts: Rep. Joe Kennedy, D, would pose a formidable challenger to Sen. Ed Markey, D, were he to challenge the latter in next year’s primary. Markey’s low profile, combined with Kennedy’s famous political name, are already giving Kennedy a substantial 35 to 26 percent early lead, according to one poll.

House 2019

North Carolina-3: Republican Greg Murphy should triumph easily in tomorrow’s special election to replace the late Walter Jones

North Carolina-9: The race between Republican Dan Bishop and Democrat Dan McCready is about as close as it can get. The latest poll has a one-point race in the Republican’s favor. The stakes are pretty high, at least in terms of appearances. A Democratic win would suggest that last year’s anti-Trump wave has stuck even in a Republican district like this one.  A Republican win would suggest that the party’s troubles are behind it, in the 2018 wave year.

House 2020

Wisconsin-5: Everyone from Matt Walker (son of the former governor) to former Lieutenant Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch to 2018 Senate nominee Leah Vukmir to former Attorney General Brad Schimel is being mentioned as a possible candidate to replace longtime Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who is retiring. This is the state’s safest GOP district, and indeed one of the safest GOP districts anywhere.

This seat — home to “crucial Waukesha County” — is the epicenter for turning out the Republican vote in Wisconsin. It is the conservative counterweight to progressive Madison. It routinely has the highest or near-highest turnout of any congressional district in the U.S. 

And so a slightly-more-exciting-than-usual post-Sensenbrenner congressional race cannot hurt Trump’s chances statewide as he seeks re-election. It’s doubtful that the race will be terribly exciting, but Trump will likely benefit to the extent that turnout is up.

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