Republicans suffered a resounding defeat in the 2018 midterms. President Trump now faces investigations not only from special counsel Robert Mueller, but also from Democratic chairpersons who will be running committees in the House. Yet the president’s reaction to his increased political peril has been to invite more of it.
Trump needs the support of congressional Republicans to keep this threat at bay so he can execute his agenda and block any potential impeachment process. But his decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria irritated congressional Republicans. And that policy shift helped lead to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who congressional Republicans really liked. The president needs to get support from voters outside of his base to win re-election, but Trump’s proposed border wall is unpopular and the public was not in favor of shutting down the government over the wall.
All of that raises a big question: Is the president in danger of a serious challenge for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination? Right now, I don’t think Trump has too much to worry about. But there are two scenarios in which a primary challenger against Trump would be more viable than they are now — and either or both of them could happen in 2019.
Before we get to that, however: Why isn’t Trump in much trouble now? The president is very popular among Republican voters. According to Gallup polling, 89 percent of self-identified Republican voters approve of Trump.1 That support from within the party is similar to the level President George W. Bush enjoyed at this stage in his first term,2 according to Gallup; it’s significantly better than Bill Clinton or Barack Obama’s standing at this