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RNC Discourages Primary Challenge, Affirms Allegiance To Trump

In a move designed to promote a vision of party loyalty but that actually telegraphs President Trump’s weakness, the Republican National Committee voted on Friday to affirm its “undivided support for President Donald J. Trump and his effective Presidency.” The unusual resolution appears intended to head off a primary challenge to President Trump in 2020.

“President Trump has incredible support amongst Republican voters and the full support of the RNC,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told the AP. “Our unprecedented relationship with the President and his campaign will be key to his re-election and ensuring we continue this great American comeback.”

McDaniel’s statement is reminiscent of an early “Simpsons” episode in which Lisa is given a scripted question to ask Mr. Burns as part of his gubernatorial campaign. The question is a softball designed to make Burns appear more popular than he is. It’s easy to imagine today’s Republicans asking Donald Trump, “Your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?”

The RNC’s affirmation of loyalty to President Trump follows the publication of a statement by the chairman of the Arizona Republican Party earlier this month. In his email, Jonathan Lines warned, “While we are accepting of different viewpoints, it is essential that we stay true to our conservative values. And it is non-negotiable that we stand with our President.”

The move to freeze out potential challengers to Trump comes shortly after the Trump campaign assumed unprecedented control of the RNC in a move that is similar to the Clinton takeover of the DNC ahead of the 2016 elections. In December, the two organizations merged their fundraising and field efforts into a new group called Trump Victory. The plan not only streamlines Republican campaign efforts but also makes it more difficult for potential challengers.

While no Republican has announced a primary challenge to the president, rumors have abounded. Popular Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is said to be considering a run. Former Republican senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, as well as former Ohio Governor John Kasich, are considered to be possible candidates as well.

“There are some people who choose for whatever reason to handcuff themselves to the Titanic,” John Weaver, a Kasich adviser, told Politico. “Why, I have no idea.”

Hitching the GOP’s fortunes to Donald Trump is a risky move.  After the shutdown failure, the president’s average approval rating is 39 percent and Mr. Trump’s “effective presidency” led Republican candidates to a shellacking in the 2018 midterm elections. A recent poll by PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist found that 57 percent of registered voters say they can’t support Trump in 2020. An economy shackled to the president’s tariffs and a deepening Russia investigation are merely two of the possibilities that could drag Mr. Trump’s popularity further into the toilet.

A traditional strength of the Republican Party is the diversity of ideas that come from a mix of free thought and differing opinions. Increasingly, however, the new GOP seems similar to the left in that members who dissent are being shown the door. Democrats have repeatedly made it clear that there is no room in their party for pro-lifers. Now Republicans are telling the country that if you are one of the 41 percent of the country that isn’t on the Trump Train, you aren’t welcome in the GOP.

Both parties seem intent on alienating and angering as many moderate and independent voters in the time left before the 2020 elections. It will be interesting to see which succeeds in this race to the bottom.

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