Republicans are nervous about 2020. Trump's low approval ratings, the 2018 election results and a host of other current and looming political problems tell them that Trump will be a deeply vulnerable incumbent.
That said, he is the incumbent and incumbent Presidents usually win, so Republicans are hardly ready to throw in the towel. They believe they can win, but fear some potential Democratic candidates far more than others.
According to an article by David Drucker on Vanity Fair's blog, the candidate Republican operatives fear least--would most like to see as their opponent--is Elizabeth Warren.
"Without naming names, I asked several senior Republican insiders which Democrat, or Democrats, at the top of the opposition ticket would most reassure them about 2020. Without exception, Elizabeth Warren, the 69-year-old progressive senator from Massachusetts, topped every wish list. “There’s a lot of Hillary Clinton in her,” said a veteran Republican operative in D.C. who hails from the Midwest and keeps a close eye on the heartland. “She’s elitist and doesn’t appear very nimble. It would be hard for her to expand her base or reach directly into Trump’s base.”
Now, I don't want to claim Drucker's info is 100 percent reliable or, even if reliable, that these operatives' perceptions are correct. But, assuming Drucker did a conscientious job of reaching out to these insiders, it's certainly of interest. Even though I like Warren a lot, I have been getting kind of nervous about her as a candidate--it does seem like Trump could rattle her and she might have a hard time connecting in certain areas of the country. This is a shame because Warren really does have a lot of great policy ideas and the guts to push them against big economic interests that will try to block them. A reasonable case can be made that, of the current crop of Democratic candidates, she might actually make the best President.
But you gotta get elected first! So who do the Republican operatives really fear--which candidates do they think have the best chances of beating Trump? One is Beto O'Rourke:
"As much as the Democratic base might be clamoring for a standard bearer to force-feed the president a dose of his own medicine, there is no beating the genuine article at the game he perfected. Trump is too quick and too shameless, and that approach offers little change to voters who want to turn the page from the chaos and anxiety that has characterized the current era. “A Democrat is not going to defeat Trump by being more brash, blustering, and strident. They will win over voters they need to retake the ‘blue wall’ states by connecting with those voters on substance but presenting an alternative to his leadership style,” a Republican consultant told me in an e-mail.
Indeed, if there’s a key aspect to the fear Beto O’Rourke inspires in some Republicans, it’s the outgoing Texas congressman’s combination of sunny disposition and 21st-century social media agility. Sure, he’s unabashedly progressive, but to borrow a phrase from Vice President Mike Pence: He’s not angry about it. Nor, as it happens, does O’Rourke look down upon so-called heretics, or, if you prefer, “deplorables.”
Ignore the Beto mockery prevalent in Republican circles during O’Rourke’s near upset of Senator Ted Cruz this past November. Party insiders were taking notes, and taking the 46-year-old from El Paso far more seriously than suggested by the apparent delight they took in lampooning everything about a figure who has drawn comparisons to a onetime up-and-coming Democrat named of Barack Obama. “A Democrat who can carry Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, or North Carolina is problematic,” a Republican insider from a critical swing state said. “Someone like Beto, who can campaign on the fly, raise money, and excite young voters, could put those and other states in play.”
Another is Joe Biden:
"November 6 provoked a brutal reassessment. Republicans saw their coalition crack, and many senior strategists blame the president. As a few well-placed strategists told me for reporting I did for the Washington Examiner, after-action polling and analysis made it clear that Trump drove away soft Republicans, college-educated Republicans, female Republicans, moderate Republicans, basically every category of Republican not firmly ensconced in Trump’s base, plus crucial independents, handing House Democrats a larger victory than most had predicted, and with it, the majority. The right Democratic presidential nominee could capitalize on that.
And who is that? As often as Warren and her like-styled cohorts were mentioned as easy Trump foils, former Vice President Joe Biden was cited as among the few Democrats who many Republicans believe might dispatch the incumbent with relative ease. Is Biden progressive? Absolutely. Gaffe-prone? Duh. But he is the antithesis of Trump, with the added benefit that he’s been vetted before, and passed muster. “He [reeks] calmness and normalcy, which I feel like people crave over the chaos of the Trump administration,” a Republican strategist headquartered in the Southwest said."
Another candidate who might fit here, though his name did not come up in the article, is Sherrod Brown. At any rate, it seems like the candidates they are most afraid of are those that can take votes away from Trump, not just turn out reliable Democratic voters. They could be onto something.