When Ohio Governor John Kasich – a Republican – and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper – a Democrat – began a series of joint appearances to discuss health care reform, word began to spread that this was a precursor to a “unity ticket” in 2020 that would usher in a bipartisan nirvana to wash away the stain of Trumpism once and for all.
Both men have denied that this is the plan. “Loving the attention on our bipartisan work but no ulterior motive,” Hickenlooper wrote on Twitter. “Not a unity ticket, just working with a new friend on hard compromises.”
Kasich was even more direct. “The answer is no, OK?” he told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press,” noting that “Kasich/Hickenlooper” would look terrible on a bumper sticker.
So many rumblings about the 2020 election
Still, the rumblings about 2020 won’t go away, even regarding Trump’s own vice president. On August 5, The New York Times published a lengthy piece asserting that Mike Pence is secretly plotting to overthrow his boss, prompting a vigorous denial from Pence himself.
“The allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this administration,” Pence responded in a prepared statement. “Whatever fake news may come our way, my entire team will continue to focus all our efforts to advance the president’s agenda and see him re-elected in 2020. Any suggestion otherwise is both laughable and absurd.”
The amount if interest in Trump alternatives would suggest otherwise. While only one duly elected president in history has been denied his party’s nomination, and that was before the Civil War – Franklin Pierce in 1856 – many other hopefuls have tried and almost succeeded.
For example, consider Ronald Reagan’s legendary struggle in 1976 against Gerald Ford, or Ted Kennedy 1980 “The dream shall never die” speech against Jimmy Carter. Still, toppling a president through the primary is not easy.
At the same time, the Trump era has been all about shattering political precedents left and right. If ever there were a time for an incumbent president to get booted, 2020 could well be it.
Trump’s extremely low approval ratings will only encourage would-be GOP saviors, and his hostile relationship with Republican congressional leaders is likely to stoke the fires of unrest. If major media outlets are openly speculating that the sitting vice president is eager to jump ship, odds are that many in the lower decks are quietly plotting their own mutinies.
Two other realities make a bloodless Trump coup a possibility, too. Trump is easily the most impeachable president since the antebellum era.
The investigations that could topple his presidency are still in their infancy. If his approval rating continues to go down, the seething and silent GOP establishment hatred will surely cease to be silent: Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan will have to hide their glee during impeachment proceedings.
Perhaps the 2020 usurpers are basing their plans on the prediction that Trump will be gone with or without a challenger, and someone needs to be around to clean up the mess.
The other possibility is that Trump himself will leave the field of his own volition. He has repeatedly lamented about how much he despises his job, and his eagerness to leave the White House for Mar-a-Lago every chance he gets might suggest that when 2020 arrives, he could declare victory and simply go home.
(Photo of Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, and Gov. John Kasich participate in a news conference to discuss the Senate health care reform bill at the National Press Club on June 27, 2017, in Washington, by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.)