I said previously that there should not be a primary challenge against Donald Trump in 2020. But if someone were to challenge Trump, what would be the best campaign strategy? Here is my (purely hypothetical) roadmap to challenging Trump in the primary.
I will also fight: This was Trump’s biggest advantage over his 2016 primary opponents, and any challenger to Trump must make it clear that he is also a fighter. Republican voters are not going to unseat Trump for someone who does not take the fight to the Left. If Republican voters do not believe you are a fighter, you have no chance of taking the nomination in 2020.
A return to normalcy: Trump is a mercurial personality prone to ranting on Twitter and dragging down the debate. A Republican challenger would campaign on restoring a sense of decorum and professionalism to the Oval Office. This would certainly resonate with moderates, and would even appeal to Trump supporters who shake their heads at the President’s immature behavior. Having someone who does not alienate Republicans in Congress would make it easier to work with them.
Hire the best people: The last two years have shown that Trump does not surround himself with the best people. This is a corollary to the last point, because ending the often-chaotic atmosphere inn the administration means hiring even-handed, competent and professional people as high-level staff.
Build the Wall: Trump had two years of a Republican Congress and failed to get funding to build a wall on our southern border. This was Trump’s signature campaign issue, and the deal-maker could not make a deal to get it done. As a budget item, this could have passed under budget reconciliation rules with a simple majority in the U.S. Senate. A primary challenger would promise to get the wall done.
A renewed emphasis on fiscal restraint: As has been the case before, Republicans are strong on reducing the deficit when a Democrat is President but become weak-willed once a Republican takes office. This is something that resonates with a significant percentage of the Republican base and is an area where a challenger could peel votes from the incumbent.
Trump’s liberal policy ideas: Trump has been prone to proposals that make Republicans wince, such as extending DACA or denying due process for gun owners. (“Take the guns first, go through due process second.”) Trump is too supportive of eminent domain, a position he has never renounced. A Republican challenger could make the case that “draining the swamp” means not having government take private property and give it to big developers. Trump is not an ideological conservative.
Personal character: This is not going to matter in the general election, because Republicans have already proven they will overlook Trump’s character flaws to stop a Democrat from becoming President. In a primary election, this could still resonate with voters.