A “Morning Joe” panel discussed the possibility that President Donald Trump will face a primary challenge — or possibly decide not to seek a second term.
The president has already launched a re-election campaign, and will hold a campaign rally Tuesday night in Arizona, but Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said the day before “it’s too difficult to say” whether Trump will win his own party’s endorsement.
“It shouldn’t be that difficult to say,” said Josh Earnest, former White House press secretary under President Barack Obama.
Noah Rothman, associate editor of Commentary, said Collins had said out loud what other conservatives had been thinking.
“We don’t know if this guy is going to make it for four years,” Rothman said. “He seems disinclined to adjust to the office — barring (Monday) night, which was a big exception — and the address to Congress in February. Otherwise he seems to not be very comfortable in this office, he doesn’t seem to like it very much.”
Rothman said GOP lawmakers had hemmed in the president, and he said both Trump and Republicans should consider an exit plan.
“He might have to look at some options on the way out, and it behooves members of his party to start speculating about this,” Rothman said. “I don’t know about publicly, that’s probably a step too far, but I guarantee they’re all thinking what he said.”
Bret Stephens, a conservative New York Times columnist, said the president should consider stepping away to save face — although he doubted Trump would actually do that.
“Trump’s whole life is not being seen as a loser,” Stephens said. “I think you have to go back to the 19th Century to find a president who voluntarily decided not to run.”
Host Joe Scarborough said he felt Obama would have liked to serve only one term, because the presidency is so difficult, but he agreed some Republican would challenge Trump in the primary.
“I’ve just got to believe (Sen.) Ben Sasse (R-NE), someone, is going to make a 1976-style run,” Scarborough said.
Earnest wondered whether GOP senators, like Collins, would choose to endorse a colleague such as Sasse or Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) over the president.
“It sounds like more than you think right now,” Earnest said.
Rothman pointed out that Ohio Gov. John Kasich had been challenging the president from the left within the GOP, and he said Republicans should be preparing for a future without Trump.
“If Republicans need to create a soft landing space for him, they should be considering how that would go right now,” he said.