Will Another Republican Oppose Donald Trump for President in 2020?

by Taylor Smith
on November 27, 2018
6

Minute Read

Donald Trump was surprisingly elected as the 45th president of the United States on November 8, 2016. Shortly thereafter, the president-elect made it clear in no uncertain terms that he did not plan to be a one-and-done president. Trump was already making overtures with an eye on the 2020 election with the hopes of lasting the full 2 terms, a la his 3 predecessors, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

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To say Trump’s first 2 years in the Oval Office have been rocky would be an understatement.

Despite the fact that his Republican party also held majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate, his administration has not been able to accomplish much by way of landmark legislation. Trump’s controversial new tax plan did pass, but his attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed in the Senate, thanks in large part to the recently-passed John McCain.

Trump’s administration has also been dogged by the special counsel investigation into whether his presidential campaign colluded in any way with a foreign power in order to gain an advantage. The investigation has already led to a number of indictments, and Trump’s constant insistence that the investigation is a “witch hunt” doesn’t exactly make him sound too innocent himself. Time will tell what will come of that.

Now that the 2018 midterms are in the rearview mirror, we are once again getting ready for yet another presidential election cycle. Trump has already hired a manager to run his re-election campaign, but is Trump’s candidacy a certainty at this point? An awful lot can change between now and 2020. A number of members of his own party have also voiced their concern about the way he’s leading.

As of now, Trump is the obvious betting favorite to head the Republican ticket in less than 2 years at -350. However, if something happens (impeachment, resignation, etc.), could we see a new face rise up and lead the party forward? Of course, there are betting odds for such a thing. Below are some of the potential candidates if Trump is not on the ballot:

  • Mike Pence +800
  • Nikki Haley +2000
  • Mitt Romney +3300
  • John Kasich +3300
  • Tom Cotton +5000
  • Paul Ryan +5000
  • Ben Sasse +5000
  • Jeff Flake +5000

Career Politician?

Leading up to the 2016 election Trump was able to sell himself to the masses despite the fact that he had zero previous experience holding political office. Trump had entertained the notion of running for president in the past, but he never actually wound up throwing his hat into the ring until the last election. Trump’s status as a political outsider was something that his base liked about him. Trump not being from the “Washington establishment” meant he was a breath of fresh air, of sorts.

However, if Trump is not to be on the 2020 ballot for whatever reason, the odds-on favorites to lead the Republicans forward are all folks that have spent years plying their craft in Washington. The top choice here is Mike Pence (+800), the former Indiana governor who is currently serving as Trump’s vice president.

Obviously, Pence would instantly become president if Trump were to resign or be impeached and voted out of office. Considering both of those things are fairly realistic possibilities, there’s an outside chance Pence runs for election in 2020 as an incumbent president.

At times, Pence has appeared to try and distance himself from Trump and Trump’s various controversies. That sort of stance sure does make it seem as though Pence will want to be able to separate himself if necessary. There have been rumors that Pence “wants to be ready” to run in 2020 in case the opportunity is there. Pence has given no public indication that he would want to do such a thing.

Trump essentially threw Pence a life raft back in 2016 as Pence was likely set to be voted out of office as the unpopular governor of Indiana. The vice presidency has breathed new life into Pence’s political career, and we’ve seen a number of vice presidents go on to run for president afterward. It’s hardly uncharted territory. Assuming Pence would be able to survive a hypothetical Trump collapse, he’s the natural choice to lead the Republican ticket in ‘20. So, Pence makes for the most logical bet here at +350.

Longer Shots

While Pence would be the natural choice, he isn’t the only option. Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Trump’s cabinet, has been touted as a rising star in the Republican party. The former South Carolina governor is a young woman, which is instantly something that helps differentiate her from the majority of her party, which is chock-full of older men.

Haley was tabbed as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine back in 2016. She has publicly scoffed at the notion of running for president one day, but just about every eventual candidate does that at some time or another. Haley has already announced that she plans to leave her current post in the Trump administration at the end of 2018. Hmm…why could that be? Could it be because she has aspirations of running for a bigger job in a couple of years?

Haley was reportedly a candidate to serve as vice presidential candidate to Mitt Romney in 2012 before Haley said she would turn down any offer. The same rumors surfaced in 2016, though once Trump won the nomination she chose to distance herself from the idea. I think she will run for president at some point, but I’m not convinced it will happen in a couple of years. I’ll pass on Haley here at +2000. 2024 seems like a more realistic option.

Romney and John Kasich have both run in the past. Romney just got elected to the Senate, so I can’t imagine him running again so soon. Kasich is a more interesting option because he’s been a vocal critic of Trump’s from within the Republican party for years. Kasich has bemoaned the direction of his party, and he was one of the several candidates to run in ‘16.

Is there enough of an anti-Trump movement within the Republican party to where Kasich thinks he could actually beat the incumbent?

That’s quite the daunting task. Trump’s approval rating within his own party is fairly strong, and any other Republican that tries to rise up and run would be seen as someone just trying to divide the party. Obviously, doing so could have disastrous results.

The same can be said of Jeff Flake, who is set to retire from his seat as a Senator from Arizona. Flake decided against running for re-election in 2018, which sparked murmurs that he could have his sights set on running against Trump. In early November, Flake said that a Republican does need to challenge Trump in 2020. Flake told Politico, “I’ve not ruled it out. I’ve not ruled it in. Just, somebody needs to run on the Republican side.” Flake also mentioned Kasich and Republican Senator Ben Sasse as viable challengers to Trump.

He added, “I hope somebody does run, just to remind Republicans what it means to be conservative and what it means to be decent. We’ve got to bring that back. You can whip up the base for a cycle or two but it wears thin. Anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.”

Flake and Sasse are listed at +5000 apiece. Sasse hasn’t mentioned anything about running, but it sure sounds like Flake is serious about this. The soon-to-be ex-Senator recently visited New Hampshire, which is a stop we see potential presidential candidates make all the time. I’ll write off Sasse at +5000 here, but Flake is a viable betting option at the same price.

If a current Republican politician decides to challenge Trump in 2020, I think Kasich (+3300) and Flake (+5000) are your best choices from a profit potential perspective.

Wild Cards

Paul Ryan was once seen as a rising star in the Republican party, but his resume has been harmed a bit by his tenure as Speaker of the House. Ryan was the VP candidate ultimately chosen by Romney in 2012, and he decided against running for re-election for his House seat from Wisconsin. Ryan said he did so so he could spend more time with his kids, but he’s still only 48. Ryan was at times hesitant to embrace Trump in the early days of the latter’s campaign, and the two never really seemed to have a particularly cozy relationship.

Ivanka Trump, daughter of Donald, is listed at +6600 to potentially run for president in 2020. While I don’t doubt Ivanka is enough of a narcissist to do it, she seems afraid to try and get in the way of her own father. If Donald isn’t running, perhaps Ivanka will. That said, I think a more likely member of the Trump family to try and run for office at some point is her brother, Don Jr. Don Jr. would be eaten alive if he tried to run for president, but at least it would be entertaining. Unfortunately, there are no betting odds on Jr.

Joe Scarborough and Bill Kristol have been two anti-Trump conservative voices on television. Scarborough initially embraced Trump’s candidacy before doing a complete 180 as the election drew nearer. Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, has been a “Never Trumper” from the start. I don’t doubt either of these guys may have some further political aspirations of their own, but I don’t think either is a particularly viable candidate to run in 2020 at +10000 apiece.

Paul Ryan (+5000) is the only member of this group that looks like a legitimate candidate in a couple of years.

I will rank my favorite betting options among non-Trump candidates to run for president from the Republican side in 2020 as follows:

  1. Mike Pence +800
  2. Jeff Flake +5000
  3. John Kasich +3300
  4. Paul Ryan +5000
  5. Nikki Haley +2000
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