Although the Republican National Committee (RNC) has reportedly pledged its support to President Donald Trump, it is still technically possible for candidates within the GOP to run against the incumbent president as a primary challenger.
The RNC unanimously passed a resolution backing the president on 25 January 2019 during its annual winter business meeting in New Mexico. RNC Resolutions Committee Chair Carolyn McLarty, who sponsored the resolution, told the Washington Examiner she did so to provide support and encouragement to President Trump.
“As you know, there’s been so much belittling and that kind of thing going on, Washington elites attacking the president,” she said. “And that’s the focus of mine, to give him support, give him encouragement. I didn’t need to go beyond that.”
However, a measure explicitly calling for Trump to be re-nominated by the Republican Party as its presidential candidate going into 2020 failed to gain traction. According to RNC rules, a challenger could emerge if any candidate receives support from a majority of party delegates in at least five states. National committee member, Jevon O.A. Williams, reportedly pushed unsuccessfully for a rules change to cut off that potential “loophole.”
Former U.S. senator Jeff Flake of Arizona cited the show of support by the RNC for Trump as a reason to not issue his own challenge to the president, accusing the committee of trying to “squelch” any opposition to Trump’s re-election campaign.
The committee’s national press secretary, Cassie Smedile, told us:
All of the talk about a challenger is a little silly, there’s no interest among Republican voters for this and the American people as a whole will vote to continue the President’s mission to MAGA. The RNC has been working hand in hand with the campaign since before the convention in 2016 and we will continue to do so. We’re working with the campaign in ways that have never been done before to ensure we have the most robust and efficient election operation in history.
While the RNC has not barred primary challengers to stand against the president, party leadership in two states, Kansas and South Carolina, are considering suspending their presidential caucuses and primary, respectively, in anticipation that President Trump would seek re-election unopposed.