President Trump should be afraid. Very afraid.
No, not of the flailing Robert Mueller investigation or the latest accusations by porn star Stormy Daniels. He shouldn’t fear a trade war with China or the prospect of another government shutdown weeks before the crucial midterms elections. This threat is far more insidious, far more dangerous to the legitimacy of his presidency and the possibility he will win a second term.
It is: The NeverTrump War Room.
The mere thought likely sends chills down the steely spines of Trump supporters everywhere. I mean, it’s one thing to stare down Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) or Kim Jong-un. It takes a whole different level of gamesmanship to go toe-to-toe with Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and shrewd GOP “consultants” such as Mike Murphy. How will Trump ever prevail over these masterminds, these cunning masseurs of the Republican electorate?
Talk about big button versus small button.
The NeverTrump War Room is the brainchild of Murphy, who—at least according to him—is “one of the Republican Party’s most successful political media consultants.” He’s a diehard NeverTrumper who worked for Jeb Bush in 2016. But despite raising $119 million for the former Florida governor’s amazing presidential campaign, Murphy couldn’t get his candidate past the March 2016 South Carolina primary, where Bush came in fourth place. (After that humiliating loss, Murphy defended himself, telling the Los Angeles Times without a hint of irony, “There are a lot of people in the cheap seats with a lot of opinions. What have they done?”) That wasn’t even Murphy’s most expensive defeat: He helped Meg Whitman spend $150 million of her own money to lose the California governor’s race in 2010.
So who better to offer crack advice about how to beat Trump in a Republican primary in 2020? In a menacing column for Politico Magazine that must have Team Trump in a full-blown panic, Murphy claims “plenty of exhausted Republican elected officials” are asking him whether Trump will face a primary opponent in 2020. Murphy’s weary imaginary pals allegedly pray another Republican will take on a president with approval ratings in the low-to-mid 80s among his fellow partisans.
According to Murphy’s wily political calculus, Republicans face a “wipeout in the 2018 midterms. Such a disaster, which is certainly now possible, would destroy Trump’s brand as a ‘winner’ and smash the GOP’s D.C. apparat.”
If that should happen, Murphy has a plan: Narrow the field down to one candidate who is legendary and famous and, of course, knows how to tweet. A potential winner, Murphy advises, would lead a campaign organization that has “excitement and energy.”
Murphy knows of what he speaks. This is the guy who has worked for many of America’s most electrifying candidates, including Bob Dole, John Engler, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Tommy Thompson. Nothing says vitality like a bunch of Political Pod People who just switch out old, pasty bodies from election to election while mumbling stuff about supply-side economics and renewable fuel subsidies, amirite?
And as if to tantalize us even more about what stimulating Political Pod Person may be lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on Trump, Murphy teases with this: “I’d keep an eye on political developments in Utah.”
Dear God, how many sparkling personalities can we tolerate in 2020?
Murphy never really explains why Trump should be primaried, aside from some mumbo-jumbo about Robert Mueller and Melania, and Republicans’ possibly losing control of Congress after November’s elections. Of course, the incumbent president’s party always loses seats in the subsequent congressional election; no one called for Obama to be primaried after losing more than 50 House seats in 2010. We know how his 2012 re-election campaign turned out.
But, hey, when you are still getting writing gigs and cable news hits after blowing a quarter of a billion dollars on two losing political campaigns, who needs details?
Plus, it’s weird that Murphy is boosting a 2020 primary fight against Trump. He told CNN’s Chris Cillizza in August that Trump won’t even be president in early 2019, because he’ll resign after losing the midterm elections: “Post-election Donald Trump will be alone, despised by his own party, a failure rebuked by the nation, and politically neutered even more than he is today. At that point, I think President Trump will pine for the Tower. A resignation is far from impossible, if for no other reason than nothing is impossible with Trump.”
Murphy isn’t the only guy staffing the NeverTrump War Room. Jeff Flake, the NeverTrumper and soon-to-be-ex U.S. Senator from Arizona who wouldn’t have won his own Republican primary, was in New Hampshire recently. That led some observers to speculate this political behemoth might challenge Trump in 2020. Flake, who has absolutely no reason whatsoever to be in New Hampshire, insisted a presidential run is “not in his plans.” (I can hear Trump exhaling in relief right now.) Nonetheless, the conservative “conscience” said he wasn’t sure if the Republican Party would still be the party of Trump “in a couple of years” and that New Hampshirites would be “receptive” to his message of anti-Trumpism with no opposing policy agenda.
Sounds like a winning formula.
Over the next several months, the NeverTrump War Room will undoubtedly fill up with other heavyweight “GOP strategists” such as Rick Wilson, Mindy Finn, Nicolle Wallace, and Steve Schmidt. This is why they pose a legitimate threat to Trump’s re-election chances: This crew hasn’t had an electoral win between them in decades. If NeverTrump was a baseball team, they would be the Chicago Cubs from 1908 to 2016. But even perennial losers win every century or so.
Once these clutch tacticians find their anti-Trump candidate, an anti-Trump policy agenda will be a cinch to develop: Eliminate the tax cuts, reinstate federal regulations the Trump Administration has eliminated, re-enter the Paris Climate Accord and re-issue the Clean Power Plan, appoint moderate judges to the Supreme Court and federal judiciary, save the Iran Nuclear Deal, capitulate to Russia, ignore China’s trade violations, open the southern border, legalize every illegal immigrant, support sanctuary cities, let the news media continue to lie, and play nice with Democrats.
After all, if you want to defeat Trumpism, you have to undo all of it, not just take down its leader.
So the NeverTrump War Room is coming together. All it needs now is some sucker to pour in a few hundred million bucks, then Murphy and friends will be back in business.
Yeah, the White House should worry.
Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images