Former RNC head says Trump will face 2020 primary challenger, and that Biden is the Democrat to beat

Former RNC head says Trump will face 2020 primary challenger, and that Biden is the Democrat to beat

Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele. (Photo: Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

WASHINGTON — “Oh dude,” Michael Steele jokingly groans. “Seriously?”

The question that has the former chairman of the Republican National Committee gently perturbed is one that, within months, will come to dominate the national conversation: Who is going to be the next president of the United States?

And so, much as he says he doesn’t want to, Steele supplies an answer. “If the election for the presidency is held today, Donald Trump wins,” he says.

Steele has a vantage point that few others have, one that allows him to survey the forces aligning for and against Trump. Though the former leader of the Republican Party, which he led for much of the Obama presidency, is now an MSNBC contributor, often sharing airtime — and opinions — with verified members of the anti-Trump resistance.

recent reports indicate that Hogan may well decide to challenge Trump. (Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld has also announced that he will run in the primary against Trump, but he is not widely regarded as an electoral threat.)’ data-reactid=”27″>Steele is close to Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, who recently became the first Republican in more than a half-century to win reelection in that state, easily defeating his Democratic opponent, former NAACP head Ben Jealous. “What Larry Hogan has done in Maryland is an example of how bipartisanship used to work —and how bipartisanship can work in the future,” Steele says. That’s an increasingly popular assessment of the Maryland governor; recent reports indicate that Hogan may well decide to challenge Trump. (Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld has also announced that he will run in the primary against Trump, but he is not widely regarded as an electoral threat.)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at an election night party, Nov. 6, 2018. (Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP)

Has Steele broached the topic with Hogan? He good-naturedly deflects the question — “I will not share with you my conversations with the governor” — while making it pretty clear that he and Hogan have discussed what it would take to make the journey from Annapolis to Washington. In what is nothing if not a tell, Steele calls a potential Hogan challenge to Trump a “gift to the American people.”

For now, the American people will have to do with more than a dozen Democratic candidates, whom Steele sees as moving too far left for a nation that, he maintains, is “center-right” at its ideological core. That could leave the independent voter stranded come the general election, uncomfortable with both Trump and a Democratic opponent who has adopted the agenda of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the fiery new leader of young congressional progressives.

Klobuchar said she did not support free tuition at public colleges or significantly expanded public health care. While some see these positions as misreadings of an increasing left-leaning Democratic base, Steele sees something else, something admirable at work.’ data-reactid=”57″>He points to a CNN town hall held earlier this week, in which Klobuchar said she did not support free tuition at public colleges or significantly expanded public health care. While some see these positions as misreadings of an increasing left-leaning Democratic base, Steele sees something else, something admirable at work.

“She’s being honest,” he says. “And what was the response in the room, in Iowa? Applause.”

collected $6 million in campaign contributions, having announced his presidential run earlier this week on Vermont Public Radio. The polls have been favorable to Sanders, too, but not so favorable as to intimidate any of his rivals, for whom the next several months are an opportunity to raise both profiles and funds.’ data-reactid=”60″>In the meantime, Sen. Bernie Sanders has already collected $6 million in campaign contributions, having announced his presidential run earlier this week on Vermont Public Radio. The polls have been favorable to Sanders, too, but not so favorable as to intimidate any of his rivals, for whom the next several months are an opportunity to raise both profiles and funds.

“There is no front-runner, in my view, in the Democratic primary,” Steele says. One potential front-runner he does have in mind is not yet running: former Vice President Joe Biden. “He is everyman,” Steele says enthusiastically. “He’s a guy who goes to a fish fry and is as comfortable talking to folks with greasy fingers as he is sipping tea at a tea soirée.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden. (Photo: Alexandra Beier/Getty Images)

Biden is older than Trump, and just a shade younger than Sanders, but Steele dismisses any age-related concerns about fitness for office. “As much as Democrats chastise the rest of us because of our other isms,” he says, “they seem to be perfectly OK with ageism.” He points to the crowds of college students who packed Sanders rallies during the 2016 primary as evidence that any hand-wringing over graying hairs is merely the domain of pundits and consultants.

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