Johnson and McCarthy in ’68; Ford and Regan in ’76; Carter and Kennedy in ’80; H.W. Bush and Buchanon in ’92. Each of these is an example of when a member of the incumbent president’s own political party decided to run against the president looking for reelection to a second term. With the exception of Lyndon Johnson, who dropped out of the race in 1968, each of the sitting presidents was able to win their respective nominations despite the serious challengers. However, all of them eventually lost to the opposing party in the general election: a party that had become so divided by two passionate campaigners with enormous support stood no chance against the united front of the other party.
Initially, when former Illinois Representative Joe Walsh announced his bid for the 2020 Republican nomination, people immediately looked toward these disastrous past examples. Some were optimistic, hoping that Walsh would disrupt the GOP enough to distract President Trump and allow a Democratic nominee to regain control of the White House. Some were skeptical, pointing towards Walsh’s past support of Trump and wild statements on Twitter (remind you of anyone?) as proof that he was not only unfit for office but also unable to deter President Trump, whom was amassed a significantly larger following over the past several years.
However, I pose a third viewpoint. I believe that Joe Walsh’s unexpected bid for office, an attempt to thwart President Trump and lead the Republicans who are seemingly dissatisfied with President Trump’s antics in office, will only serve to fuel President Trump’s re-election bid.
Even more potentially troubling for people hoping for President Trump departure, Walsh’s campaign may actually force anti-Trump Republican voters to vote between several meaningless candidates instead of siding with the Democratic nominee. Now, not only is Walsh not gaining any ground toward a White House spot, but he is actually assisting Trump, essentially stopping many key Republican voters from switching sides in 2020.
Walsh is quick to criticize President Trump for his lies and despicable behavior while in office, even though his past statements, especially on Twitter, have been just as if not more controversial than that of President Trump himself. The main victim of Walsh’s racially-charged and rhetoric-heavy tweets and accusations was then-President Barack Obama. Here are some examples of Walsh’s past attacks:
“The single greatest act of racism in American history was the election of Barack Obama. People voted for him simply because he was black.”
“Obama never let a voter feel his birth certificate.” (With a gif of a woman feeling President Trump’s hair, supposedly to prove its authenticity)
“I have a right to pray to whatever God I want to pray to. I have a right to call Obama a Muslim and call Trump a thin-skinned ego maniac. I have a right to use an AR-15 to defend my family and my home. That’s America. Get off my lawn.”
President Trump, while controversial, still maintains a stranglehold on the GOP electorate (His approval rating among registered Republican voters is a steady 57 percent). Despite his troubling national approval rating (hovering around 45-50 percent) in a year with a strong economy, President Trump will not be shaken off by the Republican nomination by Joe Walsh. Moreover, recent polls have estimated that Walsh is hovering around 1 percent support. However, even that number seems to be a blatant exaggeration when stacked next to another shocking (or expected fact): Walsh has raised a measly 0.04 percent of President Trump’s total campaign funds. It’s a number that alone shuts Walsh’s presidential bid down. Voters will not suddenly seek Walsh for his Tea Party background and brief term in Congress in 2010.
In a normal election year, it would make eminent sense to challenge Trump in the primaries. His low approval rating and controversial actions in office have set him up for strong challengers in 2020. That kind of number is an invitation to face a challenge, and as presidents Johnson, Ford, Carter, and H.W Bush learned the hard way, internal and third-party challenges almost certainly mean an Election Day loss. However, Joe Walsh cannot construct a convincing campaign against President Trump. He simply lacks the charisma, base of support, and influence of President Trump. It is a changed GOP in 2019, and while President Trump has built his presidency on stalwart and controversial policies, the Republicans have mainly rallied behind him for a 2020 reelection.
So Joe Walsh, if you truly believe that President Trump is unfit for office, then instead of running a counterproductive internal party campaign, try to communicate with the anti-Trump Republican voters who matter the most.