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Why Trump may face 2020 primary challenges in New Hampshire

CNN: 2020 Buzz in New Hampshire
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Story highlights

  • President Trump is considering new wave of tariffs against China
  • Rifts are emerging in the Senate Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation

Washington (CNN)Here are the stories our DC insiders are talking about in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow's headlines today.

1. North Korea talks postponed?

It's been 10 days since President Trump accepted an invitation to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on that nation's nuclear program.
    CNN's Jeff Zeleny points out that although the administration initially said the meeting would happen by May, they're now saying it might not take place until the end of May.
    "The question here is, is the President going to be embarrassed if this meeting does not happen?" said Zeleny. "The White House says, absolutely not, because he's trying something. But keep an eye on that date. It may keep slipping here."

    2. The impact of more tariffs

    Get ready for another outcry over trade as the White House considers imposing broad tariffs on Chinese imports. The Associated Press' Julie Pace reports that both the Republican party and business groups are concerned about new tariffs aimed at everything from electronics to apparel.
    "The scope of what the White House is considering is still under debate right now," said Pace. "But the Chamber of Commerce last week put out a pretty extraordinary statement that said that this kind of tariff could end up hitting the US with $60 billion that would be passed down to consumers. They say that would just be devastating for the US economy."

    3. A rift on the Senate Intelligence Committee

    Could the Senate Intelligence Committee be heading for the same breakdown that we saw on the House side just last week?
    CNN's Manu Raju spoke last week with both Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee, and Sen. Richard Burr, the committee chairman, and got very different answers.
    "Burr told me that he has not seen collusion (between the Trump campaign and Russia) yet in this investigation," said Raju. "He also said that the intelligence community's assessment also, at this point, cannot be substantiated."
    Warner, on the other hand, told CNN that there are signs of possible collusion, and said there's no reason to doubt the intelligence community's January 2017 assessment. The chairman and the ranking member were also at odds over whether to bring back some Trump associates for further interviews.
    "So while the Senate Committee will do something on a bipartisan basis as soon as this week to try to shore up election security, those big questions about collusion and whether Russia tried to help Donald Trump win the presidency -- they're not on the same page yet," said Raju.

    4. Trump's funding standoff

    President Trump is taking on members of his own party over another major issue: government funding, which is set to run out this Friday.
    Politico's Rachael Bade reports that a major point of contention is Trump's demand for border wall funding in exchange for a short-term DACA deal.
    "The President in recent days has been calling Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to say he wants his wall money in there and is willing to do a short-term DACA deal," said Bade. "The Republicans are telling him, there's no way Democrats are going to agree to this right now, just drop it. But he's not listening at this point."
    Another sticking point? It's the Gateway tunnel, an infrastructure project favored by New York and New Jersey Republicans that Trump initially said he would support before taking it off the table as a shot at Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer. So for now, the New York and New Jersey faction of the party are nos until they get that money.

    5. Early 2020 rumblings in New Hampshire

    It is only March 2018, but New Hampshire Republicans are already experiencing a little 2020 buzz.
    President Trump is due in the Granite State on Monday to push his plan for dealing with the opioid epidemic. There is an anti-Trump protest there in the works, too.
    That comes on the heels of a Friday visit to New Hampshire by GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a fierce Trump critic who is considering a possible 2020 primary challenge.
    "It has not been in my plan to run for President, but I have not ruled it out," Flake said during his stop. "I hope that someone does run in the Republican primary — somebody to challenge the President."
    Ohio Gov. John Kasich is not far behind. Kasich is due in New Hampshire for two days in early April. Like Flake, Kasich says it is way too soon to discuss 2020 with any certainty. But like Flake, he also is certainly keeping his options open.
    Kasich has the advantage of an established New Hampshire network, and a good slice of his 2016 campaign team remains supportive. Flake is new to the state, though a seasoned GOP operative said his Friday speech generated "good media and good chatter" among the state's ever chatty politicos.
    New Hampshire, of course, takes its first-in-the nation primary status quite seriously. It can be an important testing ground for incumbent presidents seeking re-election. Pat Buchanan, for example, bruised President George H.W. Bush by winning 40% support in the 1992 GOP primary there.
    Whether President Trump can be beaten is a constant source of watercooler talk among New Hampshire GOPers. There is a strong anti-Trump GOP faction in the state, but there also is a vocal pro-Trump core.
    The early chatter among those Republicans who do not back Trump is that a field of one or two challengers might get interesting. But a more crowded field, they argue, would play to the President's favor as it did in the 2016 primaries.
    "Trump's strength last time was premised on opposition splintering," said one veteran GOP player in the state.
    To succeed, the challenger would have to attract considerable support from non-affiliated, or independent, voters who are allowed to pick a presidential primary ballot. There also will be an open Democratic race, so the 2020 New Hampshire competition for independents will be fierce.
    In the short term, New Hampshire GOPers who want a Trump challenge are keeping a watchful eye on the conservative Union Leader newspaper, a key bullhorn for the Buchanan challenge a generation ago.
    Times have changed, and the Union Leader may not have the same clout it had with conservatives back then. But it remains an influential voice in the state, and its publisher is no fan of the President.
    So while waiting for candidates to emerge, many New Hampshire Republicans say a more immediate test of the 2020 climate might be the degree to which the Union Leader is willing to stir the pot.
    "My sense is the UL will be especially vocal in opposition (to Trump) -- much stronger than last time," the longtime GOP operative said. "Folks are watching them now for signals. "