Republican Party officials are circulating two draft resolutions to endorse President Donald Trump’s re-election as some Trump loyalists fret that the GOP hasn’t done enough to prevent a potentially embarrassing primary challenge to the incumbent president.
One resolution, backed by outspokenly pro-Trump Republican National Committeeman Jevon Williams of the Virgin Islands, would also declare Trump the party’s “presumptive nominee” more than 18 months before the 2020 nominating convention, and it would specifically authorize the party to re-elect Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
The second – offered by RNC insiders Carolyn McLarty, a committeewoman from Oklahoma, and Bruce Ash, a committeeman from Arizona – would declare the committee’s “undivided support” for Trump. Both McLarty and Ash initially backed Trump rivals in 2016.
The party’s governing committee is meeting later this month in New Mexico, where the resolutions could be brought up. The full 168-member body would need to pass the resolutions, which would have largely symbolic effect.
Trump, who previously identified as a Democrat and donated to Democratic causes, bulldozed through a field of 17 candidates to seize the GOP nomination in 2016, but he’s long had a tortured relationship with his adopted party – and continues to face vocal opposition from some quarters.
Speculation about a primary challenger spiked last week after Utah Sen. Mitt Romney wrote a Washington Post column that attacked Trump’s leadership and character. Other Republicans, who have made no secret of their disagreements with Trump on ideology and temperament, have sought to keep the potential for a contested nomination fight alive.
A primary challenge against Trump, who is armed with the benefits of incumbency, would face all but impossible odds. But no matter how unlikely it is to succeed, a Republican primary could prove to be an embarrassment that damages Trump in the general election, given that he is already facing record-low approval ratings and signs of revolt among suburban voters.
Primary challengers in 1980 and 1992 helped weaken then-Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, who were ultimately defeated in November.
Williams last week called on the party to close “loopholes” in the nomination process that could allow a convention floor challenge next year. But the party’s nominating rules have been locked in since September, and the convention rules can only be changed next year in Charlotte, North Carolina, the site of the 2020 Republican National Convention.