(NEWSWEEK) – Another top GOP official has raised doubts about whether President Donald Trump will run for re-election.
Senator Rand Paul said Sunday night that even though the president is raising millions for a 2020 campaign, Republicans should not assume he’s running.
“There could well be a primary,” the junior senator from Kentucky said on MSNBC, after being asked if a 2020 primary would be good for the Republican Party.
Paul had prefaced his remark by saying Republicans “need to know [if] President Trump [is] running for re-election. I think you won’t know that until you get into sort of second, third year of his presidency.”
Paul’s comment echoes what Trump insider and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told the Today show’s Matt Lauer on October 27: “If he runs again I would support him, yes, but I’m not so sure what will happen.”
Christie added, “Four years is a long time, and especially for someone who has not spent a lifetime in politics, so I think those years affect him differently. So I’m sure the president will make whatever decision is best for him and his family and the country.”
Trump, who hates losing, may be exploring his options for a graceful exit that can be framed as a win.
Paul’s and Christie’s comments came after special counsel Robert Mueller filed his first indictments in his investigation into Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, his longtime business partner, have been named in a multiple-count indictment citing money laundering and other illegalities. The indictment was unsealed Monday morning, and the charges don’t look good for a president who campaigned on “draining the swamp.”
Ohio Governor John Kasich is already running a primary campaign against Trump, according to a new report. Vice President Mike Pence and Senators Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse are also running shadow primary campaigns, claimed in August New York Times piece claimed.
Opting not to run for a second term would be an unorthodox move, much like the rest of Trump’s unprecedented presidency.
Only three other presidents have purposefully stepped away from the White House after one term. James Polk ran in 1844 on the promise that he’d serve for just four years and did just that.
In 1927, Calvin Coolidge, known for being rather terse, handed reporters a slip of paper that simply said, “I do not choose to run for President in 1928.” In 1968, amid growing protests over the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek re-election.