All posts by CPS

Outsiders vs. Insiders: Are conservatives destined for Reagan vs. Ford part two in 2020? || ConservativeHQ

Ever since Donald Trump all-but secured the Republican nomination for president (after the Indiana primary in May of last year) there’s been a great deal of speculation as to when the inevitable challenge to his leadership of the GOP would materialize.

Most of the anti-Trump conjecture originated from establishment figures such as John Kasich, John McCain and Jeb Bush, people who never fully accepted Trump as a legitimate politician and have sniped and criticized him from the sidelines as the New York outsider dove in and battled the reptile-infested political swamp in Washington DC.

To predict someone from the elite circles of the party will make a high-profile primary challenge to Trump in 2020 is not only within the logical realm of possibility — it’s almost likely to happen. Certainly such an effort would be well supported and financed by Trump’s multitude of enemies inside and outside the party.

But could Trump possibly face opposition from a conservative competitor as well? Some people talk as though it’s destined to take place.

Craig Shirley and Scott Mauer wrote at Real Clear Politics, “President Trump seems to be heading in the direction of Gerald Ford. He is going leftward by negotiating with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi instead of his own party’s leadership. It was met with great fanfare by the liberal media when he agreed to increase the debt limit. Several days later, he reassured DACA recipients that everything will work out to their favor – at the behest of Nancy Pelosi…

“If Donald Trump is destined to becoming the next Gerald Ford, who will be the conservative primary opponent running to his right? What will this mean for 2020? Will someone emerge to go after an unclear, messy, moderate incumbent in the primaries? It would seem so. Conservatives will surely want a hard-hitting and principled candidate who understands classic conservative economics, politics, and the tenets of Federalism.”

Radio host Mark Levin has been similarly critical of Trump’s political inconsistencies, so it isn’t just Shirley and Mauer making the challenge-from-the-right argument.

Since Shirley is perhaps the preeminent authority on the extraordinary life of Ronald Reagan it’s understandable how he might see parallels between what’s happening with Trump today and the internal party civil war (between American conservativism’s greatest icon and the ultimate establishmentarian of his time, Gerald Ford) that took place over forty years ago.

And while it’s true Trump has been making a number of debatable political moves of late it’s probably a little early to foresee a certain conservative primary challenge to his leadership of the GOP in 2020. Trump may have earned the ire of diehard conservatives who felt the sting of his apparent backtracking on immigration a couple weeks ago but by no means is it obvious that he has morphed into a knee-jerk reactionary Democrat.

Many (myself included) surmised Trump’s overtures to the opposition party were really a feint to throw the media dogs off his scent rather than signaling a permanent exodus to join the enemy’s black hooded thugs. Trump is far too tactical and clever to be so open about his true intentions; he’s also reiterated time and again “I will not let you down” to his base. All the media and liberal adoration in the world isn’t going to lure Trump away from his desire to please the crowds.

That’s what a populist does; when you stop satisfying people you become un-popular. If you don’t believe it, ask George W. Bush.

It just doesn’t make sense to believe otherwise in Trump’s case. The president may be no Ronald Reagan but he certainly doesn’t appear to be a Gerald Ford either. After the fiasco with Richard Nixon in the mid-70’s the GOP establishment took full control of the party and of Ford’s governing direction. There’s little to no chance of something similar occurring with Donald Trump.

Trump remains ever distrustful of the entrenched ruling class in Washington. He’s been perhaps too tolerant of keeping Obama holdovers employed in the highest reaches of the federal bureaucracy but when Trump has had the opportunity to appoint someone, he’s usually turned to worthy conservatives.

It’s also hard to envision how one of the high-profile conservative leaders in Congress (or governors) would become so upset with Trump that they’d make what would likely amount to a suicidal run to unseat him on the 2020 ballot. Such a campaign would need to begin sometime soon, too, otherwise there wouldn’t be sufficient time to organize, fundraise, hire a staff, etc.

And who would it be? Ted Cruz? Mike Lee? Ben Sasse (there isn’t anyone on the House side who would be prominent enough to make it work)? The former two would be highly unlikely to challenge Trump for a number of reasons. Cruz is currently preoccupied with winning reelection next year and Lee has never seemed interested in a run for the top White House job.

Of the group Sasse would be most likely to try it, but again, where would his base of support come from? The conservative/populist grassroots chose Trump precisely because he was seen as having the best shot at breaking up the system, an impression that is not likely to fade no matter what takes place in the next couple years.

Practically speaking, there aren’t enough voters to fuel the fires of change in the GOP away from Trump at this point.

One name who could conceivably attempt it just to make a statement is Senator Rand Paul. Paul’s family’s political history would lend itself to running an outsider-from-the-inside-type campaign that would highlight Trump’s policy apostasies and could draw a reasonable amount of support from libertarian conservatives and those who have never thought Trump was conservative enough.

Further, the Kentucky senator has been plenty vocal lately in questioning his party’s turn away from conservatism. In a piece titled “Remember When Republicans Were Conservative?” Paul wrote last week in The Daily Caller, “Our budget needs balancing.  Our programs need reform.  Our spending ourselves into debt needs to end.

“With this next three months, conservatives, and really all Republicans, need to get together and act.  We need to insist that there will be no debt ceiling increase the next time if we aren’t heard, and if reforms aren’t enacted.

“I plan to start right now — not wait until December.  Last week, I met with conservative fighters in both the House and Senate to put together a coalition that says, ‘Stop.’  No more spending without real reforms.”

It’s clear Paul intends to follow through on his principles and could become one of Trump’s loudest Republican critics if the president carries out his threat to approach the Democrats for additional help in passing legislation under the guise of doing anything to get the process moving.

It’s also well-known Paul was a leading conservative opponent of compromise on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare which has many folks questioning his motivations. Most principled conservatives agree wholeheartedly with Paul’s words and positions but at some point politics does become the art of the possible. There’s a difference between using one’s position outside the majority to take a stand (as Ted Cruz did against Obamacare in 2013), but once you’re in the governing faction it’s necessary to bend a bit at times.

In the end I don’t believe Paul would pursue such a run against Trump. He’s not his dad and circumstances are quite different than when Reagan challenged Ford in 1976 and even when “pitchfork” Pat Buchanan campaigned against George H.W. Bush from the right in 1992. Bush was Reagan’s VP, the establishment had retaken control of the GOP and Buchanan didn’t have enough of a base to knock off the elder Bush.

Perhaps most importantly, the conservative Republican voters weren’t ready to toss out Bush. They won’t be prepared to remove Trump at the ballot box either.

The biggest reason is Trump is by and large keeping his promises. Even the establishment is now hesitant to criticize his methodology.

Joel Gehrke reported in the Washington Examiner, “President Trump’s sharp criticism of NATO succeeded in rattling ‘the complacency’ of European allies and producing foreign policy dividends, according to former rival Jeb Bush…

“’In relates to NATO, look, here’s a place where the rhetoric actually has been helpful,’ Bush said during a foreign policy discussion hosted by United Against Nuclear Iran.

“’Granted, the fact that he didn’t embrace NATO to begin with, but you’re starting to see European countries increase their defense budgets. … From time to time, it’s okay to shake up the complacency.’”

One wonders whether Jeb now believes it was okay to shake up the GOP’s “complacency” last year when conservatives and populists roundly rejected the status quo in favor of the politically unrefined Donald Trump. Trump doesn’t talk like a typical politician and isn’t the least bit afraid to step on foreign toes – like those of NATO leaders – to advance his America First policies.

Trump’s tough rhetoric is not only popular with Americans in general it’s extremely well received by conservatives. We still have a long way to go until 2020, but for right now it’s hard to fathom how the outsider president would face a conservative primary challenger after one term.

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Review: Katy Tur’s ‘Unbelievable’ an Exercise in Self-Aggrandizement || Lifezette

Review: Katy Tur’s ‘Unbelievable’ an Exercise in Self-Aggrandizement

NBC reporter’s new book documenting the Trump campaign heavy on Gen X tangents, light on substance

by Craig Shirley and Scott Mauer 

There is no question — ever since the Watergate scandal — that the media and journalists have come to think of themselves as the royalty of the Fourth Estate. To its opponents, the media are less the Fourth Estate and more the Fifth Column, though the two share similarities that make them almost indistinguishable at times. In more recent years, this cultural phenomenon has extended to cable television, as many of the newsreaders are held up as paragons of knowledge despite their frequent fatuity. I once saw a pretty young blonde reading a Teleprompter make reference to “World War Eleven.”

Katy Tur’s book on the 2016 presidential campaign does not dispel any of these truths. And Teddy White’s and others’ legacies as chroniclers of American political campaigns are in no danger from the slim Tur book.

“Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History” reads less like a political book and more like a puerile autobiography. Coming from a journalist, what would otherwise have been seen as forgivable becomes unbearable. Her first sentence refers to throwing up. This phrase is usually associated with high school co-eds. As if. Like, you know?

NBC’s Tur is only 33 years old, so she falls into the Gen X age group. Yet it’s curious how she has gained so much wisdom about everything. And that’s precisely what the problem is here. Those who should have been the main characters of the book — Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, campaign aides — are but mere secondary characters. The primary character, of course, has to be, as she describes herself, “Katy Tur, Fearless Foreign Correspondence and Lady Who Drinks Wine at Lunch.” Cheeky. The 2016 election revolves around her, not the other way around.

Do we, the readers, really need to know how she met her French boyfriend (through romantic Tinder, by the way), or the smell and sounds of Paris, or the commute on the Eurostar from London? It’s about her here. She talks of her (paid) vacation in Sicily (again with her boyfriend) as if this were her diary. “Our first real vacation — two full weeks together. We’ll swim in the Mediterranean, climb Mt. Etna, and see opera in the ruins of an ancient Greek theater. And eat pasta. A lot of pasta.” And so on and so forth. At some points we just have to put the book down and ask, “Why is this important?”

The answer, in Tur’s mind, can only be that it’s important because she is important. Her favorite word is always a First Person Pronoun. (That’s I, me and my, for Ms. Tur’s edification.)

We have no doubt where she falls politically, either. Surprise: She’s a liberal, and she makes it clear as day when she reports, in the first pages of the prologue, “I’m about to throw up” after Trump wins on election night. And it’s not from excitement. Tur makes little snide remarks about Trump, referring to Melania as “his third wife.” That is factual, of course, but the need to point that out when they’ve been married for 12 years seems less “reporting the facts” and more “taking a swing.” She devotes half a page to describing Trump as “orange.” She makes it clear she did not want to even start reporting on Trump’s campaign — again, because she’s supposed to go on vacation!

Let’s be clear. She’s allowed to have her biases; she’s allowed to have her beliefs. But let’s not pretend that her constant belittling is professional journalism. The reporting of every obscenity, she says, is not professional journalism but more for the grocery-store tabloids. That’s what “Unbelievable” boils down to: unprofessional. “As a journalist, my job is to listen and probe, listen and probe,” she says while conducting her first interview. That’s not what this book is.

If she wanted to write an autobiography (at 33 years old, sure, the sky’s the limit), then she should’ve written an autobiography. We’re curious as to the relevance of it all. At only a mere 286 pages (tiny pages, giant print), perhaps all the egotistical fluff and filler was necessary to fit the minimum required number of pages. But everything about Katy is relevant to herself, since she has to put focus on herself through the entire two years.

When it comes to election night and Trump’s win, she puts the focus on how she “called it.” Sure, the pundits and many experts said that Hillary was going to blow him out of the water, but she is hardly the first or only person to say that he wasn’t guaranteed to lose. Laura Ingraham was one who did not give up. Ann Coulter was another. But perhaps because of their conservative beliefs, they do not count to Tur.

After all, it’s only about herself. The cover has a picture of her and the subhead has it as “My Front-Row Seat.” Not “the,” but “my.” The prologue, a mere five pages in an already small book, contained over 65 instances of “I,” “me,” or “my.” The book proper gets worse.

It says something that what is seen as unusual to many is acceptable to The Washington Post. In its review by Carlos Lozada, The Post slobbers over the book (because of course they would). “What elevates ‘Unbelievable’ beyond one more pedestrian campaign memoir,” the review states, “is Tur’s skill at capturing the constant indignities of campaign reporting while female, including the worst indignity of all: enduring the fixation of Trump himself.” Pulling the identity politics card isn’t beneath either The Post or the author. (Interestingly, the review also brings up a number of shortfalls of “Unbelievable,” so credit goes where it should.)

Those who wanted an in-depth, insider’s look at the “craziest campaign” shouldn’t look here. It’s a shame, because a journalist who has been with the Trump campaign since literally Day One should know who the main focus should be: not her, but the future president of the United States and the history of the campaign. Journalists should know when something is irrelevant and irreverent to their profession.

“Unbelievable” is unbelievably confusing and unbelievably disappointing. Perhaps that makes it the perfect book for self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing millennials.

Craig Shirley is a presidential historian and author of four bestsellers on Ronald Reagan, most recently “Reagan Rising.” His latest political biography on Newt Gingrich, “Citizen Newt,” is now available on Amazon. Scott Mauer is Craig Shirley’s researcher.

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Hillary Forever: Book Tour Reaffirms ‘Not Going Anywhere’ Pledge || Lifezette

Hillary Forever: Book Tour Reaffirms ‘Not Going Anywhere’ Pledge

To Democrats, Clinton’s vow to stay in politics sounds like a threat — for Republicans, a love letter

by Craig Shirley and Scott Mauer 

“I’m not going anywhere,” Hillary Clinton said recently. Some saw it as a threat. But high-fives and toasts could be heard from the Republican Party across the country, while Democratic politicians could almost be felt quaking.

Hillary Clinton, failed presidential nominee, road kill, recruiting poster for the GOP, is not going to leave public life. “I have the experience, I have the insight, I have the scars that I think give me not only the right, but the responsibility to speak out,” she self-confessed to NPR during her promotion of her new book, “What Happened.”

To Democrats, it sounds like a threat. For Republicans, a love letter.

It’s almost an unprecedented move, at least in modern history. But we can’t expect anything less from Hillary Clinton, with the number of glass ceilings she wanted to shatter. It fits perfectly into her personality.

Her recent book tour — which has agitated Democrats and amused Republicans — has been failure after failure. On the very first day of it she revealed she is entitled and cocky. What should have been a very serious Launch Day turned into much frustration as Clinton appeared an hour late to the book signing, forcing thousands of the little people to wait at the crowded Barnes & Noble in Union Square, in New York City. When Lady Hillary finally did arrive, she did not apologize or even speak to the fawning crowd, but just sat down and started to sign her books. Her Royal Highness doth honor the mere peasants with Her presence. But they had to avert their eyes.

Much digital ink has been spilt about the actual book, its contents, and its tone. Many sites have pointed out the glaring factual errors, the condescending and sanctimonious tone, the bitter victimhood, and the — surprise, surprise — utter lack of accepting blame for her loss.

Perhaps, in a rare instance, she is right here. What other losing presidential candidate has placed himself in the public eye so much, with so much blame and vigor that even other politicians in her own party roll their eyes? Truth is, not many, if any.

If we list losing presidential candidates, we get a smattering of names we recognize — John McCain, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton — but we also get a list of names that are nearly fading from immediate memory: Michael Dukakis, Adlai Stevenson, Wendell Willkie, or Al Smith. Some names may be more recognizable and have a more solid legacy than others, but all have been overshadowed by the winner on Election Day. Stevenson lost to Dwight Eisenhower (twice), Willkie lost to Franklin Roosevelt, McCain and Romney lost to Barack Obama, and Smith lost to Herbert Hoover.

Those who did stay relevant were themselves former presidents. Jimmy Carter, who lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980, went on to fund charities and do humanitarian work, sometimes personally building houses for Homes for Humanity. For all his faults, the long post-presidency of Carter has been nothing but dignified.

But what of failed candidates who weren’t presidents? Mitt Romney all but disappeared, though recent rumors suggest he may run for Senate. John McCain is only making the news because he is currently a senator and a bitter critic of Donald Trump. Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, who once ran for the Democratic Party against then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, became a professor of political science at Northeastern University in Boston, as well as visiting professor at both Loyola Marymount University and University of California, Los Angeles. He has stayed out of the public eye, relatively. He once spoke of Bill Clinton’s run for president to Charlie Rose in 1992, offering advice and predictions for the upcoming election, but that was pretty much it.

The closest historical figure that matches Clinton’s level of arrogance is former president Herbert Hoover. Losing against Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, Hoover continued to criticize the newly-elected president. He may have lost the election but he’d be damned if he lost the national debate. He criticized FDR severely, dismissing the New Deal in his 1934 work, “The Challenge of Liberty.” He was a strict isolationist (saying that if the United States entered the war in Europe, “then we have won for Stalin the grip of communism on Russia … War alongside Stalin to impose freedom is more than a travesty”) and opposed Lend-Lease.

To boot, Hoover ran for the presidential primary of the Republican Party twice more, in 1936 and 1940, failing to secure the necessary delegates. One Gallup Poll, in 1940, had his support at a pathetic 2 percent. It was clear he would stay a one-term president, yet he continued on. Sounds like someone else we know.

All that said, it can almost be forgiven that Hoover stayed in public discourse, as, one-term or not, he was indeed once president. That doesn’t necessarily give him a pass, but it gives him an excuse to criticize what may become of his legacy or his country he once served.

Yes, Hoover criticized the president after his loss. Yes, he wrote a book soon after the election about the current president. And his support dwindled away. Hillary Clinton, however, has never been president, may never be president — and though she may be following in the footsteps of Hoover, it’s fair to say she will never have, again, the amount of support from either within or out of her party.

Perhaps it’s time Clinton listens to her Democratic betters, and, as much as it’d pain her, just go away.

Craig Shirley is a presidential historian and author of four bestsellers on Ronald Reagan, most recently “Reagan Rising.” His latest political biography on Newt Gingrich, “Citizen Newt,” is now available on Amazon. Scott Mauer is Craig Shirley’s researcher.

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Was Ronald Reagan a Democrat into his mid-50s? || PolitiFact

Kevin Nicholson: “Ronald Reagan was a verified Democrat until his mid-50s.”

By D.L. Davis 

President Ronald W. Reagan is regarded by many as the founder of the modern conservative movement, and experts cite his continuing influence on generations of Republicans.

“Without a doubt, he is the most influential American conservative of the 20th and yes, even into the 21st century,” said Craig Shirley, a historian and author of four books on Reagan and the first Reagan Scholar at Eureka College (Reagan’s alma mater), where he taught a course titled “Reagan 101.”

Reagan was elected in 1980 and left office in January of 1989.

That means about 38% of the people in the United States were born after Reagan’s time in office ended, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

They and others may not know the finer points in the history of “The Gipper,” who was a movie star, president of the Screen Actors Guild and governor of California before ascending to the White House.

That led us to take a look at a claim made by U.S. Senate hopeful Kevin Nicholson.

Nicholson, a Delafield businessman and U.S. Marine veteran, was the first announced Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin in the 2018 election. On Sept. 7, 2017, state Sen. Leah Vukmir of Brookfield also entered the GOP race.

Nicholson was once president of the College Democrats of America and spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. He referenced his own political conversion — and that of Reagan — in an Aug. 6, 2017, interview on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” the WISN-TV public affairs program.

“Ronald Reagan was a verified Democrat until his mid-50s, I think, potentially his late 50s,” Nicholson told Gousha. “It was the experiences that he saw, the things that he lived, things that he did that ended up making him the most influential conservative voice of modern America because he had seen the other side.”

Let’s take a look at Nicholson’s claim about when Reagan switched parties.

The Reagan library

Reagan’s career in the public eye began in 1932, when he graduated from Eureka College and worked as a sports announcer for regional radio. He moved to Hollywood in 1937, where he starred in several films, including “Knute Rockne, All American,” “Kings Row” and “Bedtime for Bonzo.”

He had a long career with the Screen Actors Guild, the labor union for actors, serving as a board member and president in the 1940s and 1950s.

During this time, he was an active Democrat, as evidenced by a 1948 radio broadcast of Reagan supporting Democrat Harry Truman for president and Hubert Humphrey for Minnesota senator posted on YouTube. Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911, making him about 37 years old at the time of the broadcast.

An Encyclopedia Britannica biography of Reagan mentions the 1948 radio broadcast on behalf of Democrats, but notes that his politics were gradually growing more conservative. After initially supporting Democratic senatorial candidate Helen Douglas in 1950, he switched his allegiance to Republican Richard Nixon midway through the campaign.

Reagan supported Republican Dwight Eisenhower in the presidential elections of 1952 and 1956, and in 1960 he delivered 200 speeches in support of Nixon’s campaign for president against Democrat John F. Kennedy. He officially changed his party registration to Republican in 1962. He would have been 51 at the time.

“Reagan became a conservative, though, before he re-registered as a Republican,” said Shirley.

The foreword of Shirley’s book “Reagan Rising, The Decisive Years, 1976-1980″ notes the Reagan movement quickly spread, championed by emerging conservative leaders and influential think tanks.

It’s worth noting that Nicholson is not the only Democrat-turned-Republican who has cited Reagan’s switch as a basis for his own.

In August 2015, Donald Trump discussed Reagan’s political history in a TV interview.

“It’s sort of easy to explain — now one of the things I always start with — Ronald Reagan was a Democrat, and he was sort of liberal,” Trump said in an interview that aired on Fox News’ “Hannity” program. “And I knew him. I didn’t know him then, quite, but I knew him. And I knew him well. He liked me, I liked him. He was like this great guy.

“And he was a Democrat with a liberal bent, and he became a great conservative, in my opinion,” he said. “And a great president and a great leader. He had something very special. But if you think of it, he was a little less conservative, actually, than people think.”

Our rating

Nicholson said “Reagan was a verified Democrat until his mid-50s.”

The 40th president’s past an entertainer, labor union leader and politician is known to historians as well as many Americans of the baby boomer generation. His transition from Democrat to Republican is also well documented, with the formal party switch coming at age 51. (Though experts note he was becoming conservative before that point.)

We rate Nicholson’s claim True.

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Trump’s Move to the Left Ensures a Primary Opponent || RealClearPolitics

Trump’s Move to the Left Ensures a Primary Opponent

Ronald Reagan wasn’t Ronald Reagan before Ronald Reagan was Ronald Reagan.

In other words, while he is now revered by many as the first-among-equals Republican president, perhaps even more than Abraham Lincoln is, it wasn’t always so. From the time he burst onto the political scene in 1964 until his passing, Reagan was often derided by the political establishment and no more so than in 1976, when he audaciously took on Gerald Ford for the GOP nomination.

It was a bold move to go head-to-head against an incumbent president from his own party. Not since 1912, when Teddy Roosevelt challenged William Howard Taft, had it been attempted. But it nearly worked. On August 18, 1976, the penultimate day of the Republican convention, Ronald Reagan lost the primary to Ford by a mere 117 delegates, out of more than 2,000 votes cast.  It was the narrowest of margins, though some thought Ford’s win was tainted.

Reagan may have lost the nomination, but he certainly did not lose the hearts of Americans. While Ford went on to lose against Jimmy Carter, Reagan wasted no time in engineering his next run for president, just weeks after the 1976 election, eventually winning by landslides twice in 1980 and 1984. Unlike other primary losers, Reagan was not forgotten after 1976. Quite the contrary.

Ronald Reagan’s and Gerald Ford’s primary fight was rife with accusations, backhanded remarks, and down-right nastiness. The two despised each other by the end, and Nancy Reagan and Betty Ford couldn’t be in the same room with each other.

In the primaries, Reagan went straight after Ford’s inability to lead and inability to govern as chief executive. “I have become increasingly concerned about the course of events in the United States and the world,” he had said in announcing his candidacy in November of 1975. “The free world is crying out for strong American leadership.” He also went after Ford on ideological grounds, most notably U.S.-Soviet relations.

Ford’s short and ultimately forgettable presidency was marked by odd choices that made most conservatives angry and confused. From amnesty for draft dodgers and support for the Equal Rights Amendment to signing the Helsinki Accords, which ceded Eastern Europe to the Soviets, as well as his continued support for the failed policy of détente, Ford’s loyalty to the GOP wasn’t always clear. He was far more moderate than many thought he would or should be as president. As if all this weren’t  bad enough, it came at a time when the Republican Party needed a principled reformer after Richard Nixon’s humiliating and sad exit.

Ford’s association with Nixon’s policies and D.C.-insider resume didn’t sit well in the primaries or the general election. It’s no wonder that Americans later looked to an outsider to clean things up. Enter Reagan, who went on to make history.

The candidate many viewed as the outsider in 2016 was Donald Trump, who proclaimed his intention to drain the political swamp. Things have turned out differently. Unfortunately for conservatives, Trump doesn’t seem to want to follow through, and is more interested in the approval of the liberal media and the art of the deal, good or bad. Trump’s conservatism has always been suspect and now is even more so. It’s been openly thought that he’s always wanted the approval of Manhattan society. Moreover, as Ford’s hold on the American people was ephemeral because he’d never received their votes, Trump’s hold is also weak, as he did not receive a majority of the popular vote in November.

President Trump seems to be heading in the direction of Gerald Ford. He is going leftward by negotiating with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi instead of his own party’s leadership. It was met with great fanfare by the liberal media when he agreed to increase the debt limit. Several days later, he reassured DACA recipients that everything will work out to their favor – at the behest of Nancy Pelosi.

He reversed his position on Afghanistan, in the tradition of “invade the world” neocons. During the campaign, his promise  was to pull all American troops out, the sooner the better. As president, it’s been to send more troops in. Trump has met several times with the Nixon-Ford foreign policy guru, Henry Kissinger. Kissinger was the burr under Reagan’s and conservatives’ saddle. Trump also just announced that taxes on the rich – aka the successful – may go even higher. And more recently, he met again with Schumer and Pelosi to work with them to legalize Dreamers, promising to put off building the border wall until later. That’s two campaign promises reversed in one meeting.

If Donald Trump is destined to becoming the next Gerald Ford, who will be the conservative primary opponent running to his right? What will this mean for 2020? Will someone emerge to go after an unclear, messy, moderate incumbent in the primaries? It would seem so. Conservatives will surely want a hard-hitting and principled candidate who understands classic conservative economics, politics, and the tenets of Federalism.

Conservatives will want an outsider who is unable to be wooed by the insiders, from the left or right.

Is it realistic for someone to challenge the president  in 2020? Trump’s loyal apprentices who will vote for him no matter what – he said as much during the 2016 primaries – but that means little. Ford was an incumbent and nearly lost the nomination in ’76, even though Reagan received more votes in the primaries. Being president does not make you immune. Just ask Harry Truman in 1952. Or LBJ in 1968. A recent poll from early August revealed that over half of Republicans in New Hampshire would, if faced with a John Kasich vs. Trump primary, vote for the Ohio governor. Not even a year into the Trump administration, this is sorely disappointing, especially given that Kasich can come across as an old sourpuss.

Let’s see how 2020 shapes up. One thing seems certain, however: It will shape up quickly.

Craig Shirley is the author of four books about Ronald Reagan, including “Reagan Rising” and “Last Act.” He is also the author of the authorized biography of Newt Gingrich, “Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative,” and is the president of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs. He has lectured at the Reagan Library, is the Visiting Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Reagan Ranch.

Scott Mauer is a research assistant to Reagan biographer Craig Shirley.

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