Your guide to the Republicans challenging Trump in the 2020 presidential race

Not Trump.
Not Trump.
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Updated Feb. 7, 2020

US president Donald Trump has a few challengers from within Republican ranks in the party’s 2020 presidential primary race. He has not referred to them by name, but in a tweet once called them the “Three Stooges.” The candidates seem to feel similarly about Trump. Their platforms are primarily focused on what they see as the dangers Trump presents, and getting their party’s president out of office. Polls still indicate that the vast majority of Republicans say they approve of how Trump is doing his job.

Here is a look at who is running, who was running and dropped out, and who we know considered a run, for the Republican nomination. (Social media figures below are as of Aug. 28.)

Who is officially running?

Bill Weld

Image for article titled Your guide to the Republicans challenging Trump in the 2020 presidential race
Image: Reuters

The former Massachusetts governor isn’t wedded to any one party, he says, but to an ideal of fiscal conservancy coupled with moderately progressive policies. In January, he changed his registration from Libertarian back to Republican ahead of announcing his run for president in April. Weld was the first Republican to win the statehouse of the Democratic-dominated New England state in 20 years when he was succeeded Michael Dukakis. He served from 1991 to 1997, quitting during his second term to when he was nominated to be US ambassador to Mexico by Bill Clinton. He withdrew when his confirmation stalled in the Senate. In 2008, Weld endorsed Democratic nominee Barack Obama. In 2012, he supported Republican Mitt Romney. In 2016, Weld officially became a Libertarian and ran as the party’s vice presidential nominee all while expressing support for Democrat Hillary Clinton. He supports abortion rights, was an early advocate for the legalization of same-sex marriage, and has promoted the legalization of medical marijuana since 1992.

Age: 74 Years in political office: Six

Who gives him money: Weld, a lawyer and private-equity firm partner, has contributed substantially to his own campaign. He has received about a quarter-million dollars from donors giving under $200. More than half of his funds—about $450,000—come from large individual donors. He’s received no money from political PACs so far.

Biggest idea for the economy: Zero-based budgeting. Weld wants to cut taxes and spending, beginning with the federal budget. He argues that appropriations must begin at zero and be based on outcomes actually achieved rather than automatically increasing a previous year’s allocations, saying it’s possible to cut spending year over year.

Social media following: Twitter: 83,800, Facebook: 85,074, Instagram: 243

Who will like this candidate: Fiscal conservatives, centrists, Never Trumpers, and people from Massachusetts who don’t love the progressive bent of Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic presidential candidate who is a US senator from their state.

Who will hate this candidate: Voters on the left who want more social programs and strong progressive policies, Republicans who support Trump.

What he says about Trump: ”I do think it’s not a stretch to say that, at some level, Mr. Trump is a sick man. And I don’t mean physically, I mean in his head. There’s lots of furies there. I wouldn’t want his demons. You know, I think that, like all bullies—and it’s clear beyond peradventure that he’s a bully—he is insecure.”

Mark Sanford

Mark Sanford speaks at OZY Fest in 2018.
Mark Sanford speaks at OZY Fest in 2018.
Image: AP/Evan Agostini

The former South Carolina governor and member of Congress officially announced his bid on Sept. 8, indicating he’ll focus on the federal deficit ballooning under Trump. Sanford earned both the libertarian Cato institute’s recognition for best governor in America and the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s ranking as one of the worst governors of the country in terms of ethical conduct. He was raised in Florida as the son of successful heart surgeon who had the family sleep in one bedroom to save on air-conditioning costs. In  2008, the married governor disappeared for five days, after telling his staff he was going to hike the Appalachian trail, only to be found in Argentina with his mistress. (This episode was the origin of the expression “hiking the Appalachian trail” as a euphemism for cheating.)

Age: 59 Years in political office: 19

Who gives him money: Financial firms and banks (including Lazard Freres & Co., Chilton Investments, and JP Morgan Chase) have been his largest individual donors in the past, while the real-estate industry was the largest contributing sector.

Biggest idea for the economy: A believer in conservative economics, as governor he tried to reject South Carolina’s share of the 2009 federal stimulus package (he was eventually ordered to accept by the courts). Warning of a financial storm ahead, he proposes much tighter control over the US debt ceiling.

Social media following: Twitter 17,300, Facebook: 79,800.

Who will like this candidate: Libertarian voters, fiscal conservatives, Never Trump Republicans.

Who will hate this candidate: Trump supporters. 

What he says about Trump: “So ready for a President that can move beyond either self praise or put down to one who will focus on the debt & deficit that have gone wild under his time in office,” Sanford tweeted in response to Trump calling him “Mr Appalachian Trail.”

Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente

Roque De La Fuente
Roque De La Fuente
Image: AP Photo/Matt Volz

An entrepreneur and businessman who’s had a career in car sales, banking, and real estate development, Roque De La Fuente, known as “Rocky,” is accustomed to running for public office. in 2016, he sought the Democratic party nomination, then ran as Reform Party and self-funded American Delta Party candidate in the same election, coming in eight in the popular vote. In 2018, he sought the nomination in nine senate races—winning none. In May 2019, De La Fuente announced his candidacy to challenge Trump in the 2020 election.

De La Fuente’s name is on the ballot in a dozen states, and he owns businesses and property in several of them. His program reflects the candidate bipartisan inclination. De La Fuente talks about gun control, immigration reform that “unites families, not divides them,” promises to match immigrants with job shortage, and supports environmental protection and investment in renewable energy.

Age: 65 Years in political office: 0

Who gives him money: Himself.

Biggest idea for the economy: Match immigrants with job shortages, invest in renewable energy to create new jobs. 

Social media following: Twitter 65,400, Facebook: 241,000.

Who will like this candidate: Moderate Republicans, conservative independents.

Who will hate this candidate: Trump supporters. 

What he says about Trump: De La Fuenta often takes on Trump on Twitter, including by replying to some of the president’s statements. In response to Trump’s complaining about unfair attacks that have taken away time from his work, his challenger said: “You also have had to waste a great deal of time defending yourself against… well, YOURSELF! If you tweeted a little less, demeaned others a little less, and were a little less braggadocious, it might make things easier as well. It’s called leadership.”

Who was running but dropped out?

Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh, appealing directly to voters.
Joe Walsh, appealing directly to voters.
Image: Handout via REUTERS

A Tea Party Republican from Illinois, Walsh served one term in Congress before losing his seat to Democrat Tammy Duckworth in 2012. Walsh then became a conservative talk radio host, with a syndicated show carried by the Salem Radio Network. The right-leaning company has been steadfast in its support for Donald Trump, and quickly dropped Walsh from its roster after he announced his bid on Aug. 25. Walsh, who has expressed regret over his history of using racist slurs, is running, like pretty much everyone else in the race, as “not Trump.” Yet, in many ways, the two are quite similar: Walsh—who says he plans on making a “moral case” against Trump—also has a checkered (and rather sordid) financial past, rife with unpaid debts, tax liens, and foreclosures.

Age: 57 Years in political office: Two

Who gives him money: Walsh’s has not yet filed financial disclosures for the 2020 election cycle. His 2010 congressional campaign included major contributions from insurance companies, the hospital and nursing-home industry, and the investment/securities interests. Retirees were also an important donor bloc. Walsh has not reported using any of his own money in the past.

Biggest idea for the economy: Reduce the size of government and shrink the national debt, which has ballooned to almost $1 trillion under Trump. His campaign has not released many specifics beyond that, but a continuance of  his rightward lean on social spending and defense is probably to be expected.

Social media following: Twitter: 223,000, Facebook: 1,000,000, Instagram: 6,200.

Who will like this candidate: Conservatives who hate Trump, Republicans who hate Trump, Libertarians who hate Trump, independents who hate Trump.

Who will hate this candidate: Anyone who loves Trump.

What he says about Trump: “I’m running because Donald Trump is not who we are,” Walsh says in his announcement video. “He’s the worst of who we are.”

Who has considered running?

John Kasich

Image for article titled Your guide to the Republicans challenging Trump in the 2020 presidential race
Image: Reuters

The former Ohio governor, who ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican race, has been toying with a 2020 candidacy for months. Though he has told CNN—where he is now a political commentator —that he sees no path to defeat Trump “right now,” he is not ruling out the possibility “down the road.” Kasich did not endorse Trump when he dropped out of the 2016 race after Trump became the presumptive nominee. When Trump last year expressed a desire to see Kaisich challenge him in 2020, a Kasich advisor warned the president to be careful what he wishes for. His motto, as expressed on his Facebook page, is “Country over party. Always.” Kasich has also served as an Ohio congressional representative and state senator.

Age: 67 Years in political office: 30

Who gives him money: Not fundraising right now but he is taking preorders on his new book, It’s Up To Us, coming out on Oct. 15. He has previously been funded by banks, financial firms, insurers, and other corporations, including BankOne, Morgan Stanley, AT&T, and Nationwide.  

Biggest idea for the economy: Kasich, son of a mail carrier, says he is attuned to the concerns of working-class Americans and would cut taxes for businesses and individuals without going into deeper debt, by balancing the federal budget. 

Social media following: Twitter: 946, 900, Facebook: 373,289, Instagram 32,600. 

Who will like this candidate: Centrists and voters impressed with Kasich’s record of reducing Ohio’s budget deficit and turning it into a surplus.    

Who will hate this candidate: Fox News watchers who resent Kasich’s role as a Trump critic on rival CNN,  Trump supporters unconcerned with balanced budgets, and progressive Democrats interested in expanding social programs and curbing corporate excesses—Kasich says the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s corporate financial regulations stymies American business. 

What he says about Trump: When Kasich ran against Trump last time, he described Trump’s approach to  immigration as “crazy,” saying, “We got one guy that says we ought to take 10 or 11 million people and pick them up, where the—I don’t know where, we’re going to go in their homes, their apartments. We’re going to pick them up and we’re going to take them to the border and scream at them to get out of our country. Well that’s just crazy. That is just crazy.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Kasich’s years in office. He was an Ohio congressional representative and state senator, in addition to serving 8 years as governor.