BJ Rudell Says GOP’s Likely “Best Play” is Abandon Trump, Embrace “President Pence”

In an Op-Ed for “The Hill,” B.J. Rudell, Duke University’s Center of political leadership associate director, argues Republicans may be best off simply abandoning Trump amid controversy, while embracing the idea of “President Pence”

Rudell argues the move would “broaden the party’s appeal with the selection of a new vice president.”

Rudell also warns “the longer (Republicans) wait, the more politically damaging the breakup will be.”

BJ. Rudell writes:

…there is no immutability in politics. Fortunes change even when leaders don’t change — and sometimes fortunes change because leaders don’t change. It can be argued the GOP’s lockstep support of President Trump will be its undoing in 2020 after a decade of near-dominance. Even as House Democrats initiated a formal impeachment inquiry this week, few Republican legislators have dared to publicly criticize the president.

Even Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of her party’s most vulnerable Senators heading into next November’s elections, declined to pass judgment despite the White House’s acknowledgement that, among other things, Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his possible 2020 opponent Joe Biden. She stopped short of using the standard dismissive GOP line “That’s Trump being Trump.” But Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), took the bait: “I think that a lot of people are going to take a look at it and say that’s Trump being Trump.”

The challenge here for Republicans is that they believe the country — or at least a majority of the country (or at least 270 electoral votes of the country ) — will support Trump regardless. And why wouldn’t they believe this?

A record 91 percent of Republicans back the president, according to the latest Gallup survey conducted Sept. 3 to Sept. 15. Some leaders are convinced that “Trump Derangement Syndrome” is driving moderates away from Democrats. And from talk radio to Fox News to the conservative blogosphere, conservatives continually have warned that liberals are “overplaying their hand,” even when that “hand” was dealt by voters.

The GOP is running out of time at the worst possible time. The 2020 election will be the most impactful election since 2000 — the last time Americans elected not only a president but also governors and legislators responsible for the decennial redrawing of legislative maps.

Trump has been mired in double-digit net-negative approval ratings for all but about three months of his presidency. Swing-state voters are turning on him. Even a recent Quinnipiac University poll of Texas voters found that 48 percent of respondents “definitely” would not vote for Trump next year, versus 35 percent claiming they “definitely” would. It’s a shocking indictment of a president and party in a state they can’t afford to lose.

And yet most Republican leaders are still clinging to the outmoded notion that publicly aligning with Trump is a winning strategy.

If the party is wrong — if stalwart support for this president is political kryptonite — then they stand to lose big next November. In the U.S. Senate alone, Democrats will defend one vulnerable seat: Doug Jones’s in Alabama. Meanwhile, Republicans will defend six potentially vulnerable seats: Martha McSally (Ariz.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Collins.

And this doesn’t include potentially competitive races in Texas (John Cornyn) and Kentucky (Mitch McConnell) as well as two in Georgia (David Perdue and the seat being vacated by Johnny Isakson).

Republicans might still determine that abandoning Trump — and likely the presidency — is their best hope for preserving some power in Washington. But the longer they wait, the more politically damaging the breakup will be. End it now and there’s still time to rally around President Mike Pence and perhaps broaden the party’s appeal with the selection of a new vice president.

This article was written by the staff of TheConservativeOpinion.com 

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