It speaks to the total takeover of the Republican Party by Donald Trump that the lingering “Never Trump” movement within the GOP is reduced to trying to pretend they are excited about the idea of Joe Walsh, Mark Sanford or Bill Weld as their banner carrier in next year’s presidential primary.
Walsh, the newest entrant (or near-entrant) into the race, was a flame-throwing one-term congressman who repeatedly pushed the much-debunked idea that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Sanford was bounced out of the governor’s office in South Carolina after he left the country for a week to be with his Argentine girlfriend. Weld hasn’t held elective office in more than two decades, and has been kicking around the fringes of presidential politics since the early 2000s.
This is, to put a fine point on it, a “Star Wars” bar of politicians.
While it’s hard to imagine even a more serious Republican elected official – like, say, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan or former Ohio Gov. John Kasich – beating Trump in a primary, at least a candidacy by one of those sorts of politicians would signal to the GOP (and the broader country) that there remained a real and robust resistance to the sort of politics Trump peddles.
Instead, what “Never Trumpers” are left with are three pols running – or thinking about running – because they have nothing left to lose. All three are so irrelevant in national Republican politics that they are willing to embark on quixotic charges against Trump.
If this trio is the best the “Never Trumpers” can do, then it’s very hard to take them seriously as a movement – or even a loose affiliation of like-minded influencers – within the Republican Party.
The Point: Beating Trump in a primary was never going to happen in 2020. But running a serious conservative alternative might have allowed certain elements within the GOP to preserve the idea that the whole of the party hadn’t capitulated to Trump. That hope is now gone.