(CNN)On CNN's "New Day" Thursday morning, anchor Chris Cuomo asked Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R) whether he planned to support President Donald Trump's 2020 reelection race. The Wisconsin Senator's "answer" was really something.
This Republican senator has no idea what a 'gotcha' question actually is
Here's the exchange (bolds are mine):
CUOMO: Will you back the President of the United States Donald Trump, the standard bearer of your party, in his reelection bid?
JOHNSON: Chris, you know it's way too early to be talking about the 20 --
CUOMO: No it isn't.
JOHNSON: Yes. Yes it is, Chris --
CUOMO: No, it isn't. Not to say that you support the guy who's President, who's the head of your party.
JOHNSON: It could be a completely different world by 2020. We have a 2018 election first so, listen, I understand the kind of gotcha question you're engaging here. But it's just way too early to even be talking about it.
CUOMO: I am offended that you would see it as a gotcha question, but I'll put my personal feelings aside.
Let's define our terms first. According to Taegen Goddard's invaluable political dictionary, a gotcha question is "a question posed by a reporter in an effort to trick a politician into looking stupid or saying something damaging."
Under this definition, a gotcha question would be something along the lines of: "So, Mr. Zinke, exactly how many taxpayer dollars did you spend on private travel?"
What it wouldn't be is asking a Republican senator if he supports the sitting Republican President's reelection campaign. Elected officials, whose salaries are paid by the American people, should be willing to go on the record and say whether they support their party's leader in his attempt at reelection to the presidency -- particularly given how shaky so many Republicans were about supporting Trump the first time he ran.
Because, well, there is nothing remotely tricky in Cuomo's question. And the goal isn't to make that senator look stupid or lead him into say something dumb. It's to get him to go on the record about whether he supports the incumbent President in his bid for a second term.
There's just no way to objectively conclude Cuomo was asking a gotcha question. And it's not even close.
What about Johnson's secondary point -- that it's just way to early to be thinking about 2020?
Here's Trump on that very point: "Our new slogan when we start running in, can you believe it, two years from now, is going to be 'Keep America Great' exclamation point."
There's also the fact Trump has already hired a 2020 campaign manager. And that he reported raising more than $10 million in the first three months of 2018 and had more than $28 million in the bank at that time for his reelection race.
It doesn't take a scientist -- rocket or otherwise -- to divine that, in Trump's mind, the 2020 campaign is already very much underway. Which means that asking elected officials in his own party whether they plan to support him is totally fair game.
The truth behind Johnson's hedge -- and the hedges of so many of his colleagues -- is that Trump is the most unpredictable politician anyone has ever seen. Who's to know what he will say or do between now and 2020? No politician wants to sign on for that unless and until they have to. And so they try to buy time by saying things like "I understand the kind of gotcha question you're engaging here."
Which isn't right. Nor does it change this basic fact: Ron Johnson and every other Republican elected official is going to keep getting asked whether or not they support Trump for president in 2020. Which means they need to start finding better answers ASAP.