Rumors are swirling about who might challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020, and two names have broken out from the pack to become the most likely men for the job: Ohio Governor John Kasich and Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. Neither man has made any secret of how much they disapprove of the president’s decorum (although Flake has gone much farther in attacking Trump than Kasich), and both men have spend some time recently in New Hampshire, perhaps testing the waters for an uphill battle for the nomination.
Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t seem that many Republicans in the Granite State are all that excited about their impending candidacies. A new poll by the American Research Group shows Trump with a healthy lead on both Kasich and Flake, although the race would be a lot tighter with the former than the latter. Trump has a six point lead on Kasich, winning 48 to 42 percent in the survey of likely GOP voters. On Flake, Trump as a whopping 16 point lead, 49 to 33 percent. That’s the two-way matchup findings. In a race that pits all three of them against each other, Trump wins handily with 51 percent of the vote. In that scenario, Kasich scores 34 percent. Flake only gets 4 percent.
Unfortunately for Kasich, his opposition to the president and his constant criticism of the Republican Congress – particularly the Obamacare repeal effort – has left him with few allies within the party structure. He could run as an independent (there was talk a while back of teaming up with Democrat John Hickenlooper for a third party bid), but that would be a vanity exercise at best. If Kasich wants a real shot at the White House, he’ll have to do it within the GOP structure. It’s not clear that – barring some unforeseen circumstance where Trump doesn’t run again – he’ll have much support.
For Kasich to post these kinds of numbers in New Hampshire does not bold well for his candidacy, either. If he were whupping up on Trump in these polls, it would at least give him a glimmer of hope. But even then, it wouldn’t necessarily mean much in terms of a viable Kasich candidacy. New Hampshire Republicans are moderate and much more concerned about traditional fiscal responsibility than the country as a whole. They don’t care about illegal immigration or abortion or other socially conservative issues nearly as much as they care about sound financial policy. In other words, these are Kasich’s people. If he’s not winning there, it’s hard to see how he could win anywhere, with the possible (but according to polls, unlikely) exception of Ohio.
As for Flake, fuhgeddaboudit. His hyperbolic “He’s just like Josef Stalin” attacks on Trump have angered the Republican base to the point where he can’t even run for re-election in his home states, much less offer a serious challenge to the president in the primaries. The only people still interested in hearing from Jeff Flake are Democrats who have appointed him an honorary member of the #Resistance. Good luck running on that platform, dude.
If Trump manages to survive what could turn out to be a Democrat-controlled Congress for the next two years, we’d imagine he has a clear shot at the nomination in 2020. But we’re sure that won’t keep a handful of NeverTrumpers from jumping into the race, raising their profile, and selling a few books in the process. So it goes.