RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020

Republican National Committee (RNC) members voted on Friday to throw the party’s “undivided support” behind President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE ahead of his 2020 reelection bid as speculation continues to mount about potential primary challengers.

The resolution unanimously approved by the RNC at its winter meeting in New Mexico offered “undivided support for President Donald J. Trump and his effective Presidency.”

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While the resolution is largely symbolic, it is also unusual, because the RNC has historically refrained from expressing support for a candidate before he officially becomes the party’s nominee.

The vote on Friday signals how the Republican Party has come to fully embrace Trump, three years after many Republican officials and members dismissed him as a thorn in the GOP’s side.

The vote isn’t the only sign of the party’s deepening ties to Trump. The president’s campaign committee is expected to merge its field and fundraising operations with the RNC for the reelection bid, creating a single entity intended to streamline campaign efforts.

The moves appear to be aimed at discouraging other Republicans from challenging Trump for the party’s nomination in 2020.

Former Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong George Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid MORE (R-Tenn.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong How to survive an impeachment Are Senate Republicans certain that Trump can return to office? MORE (R-Ariz.), who were among Trump’s fiercest Republican critics in Congress, have been floated as possible primary challengers.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDemocrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll shows Michelle Obama would lead in New Hampshire if she entered 2020 Democratic race Trump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong MORE (R-Utah), the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, also stirred speculation of a potential bid against Trump after he recently penned an op-ed for The Washington Post accusing the president of failing to provide the country with clear moral leadership.

No Republican has announced a bid against Trump yet.

RNC members also voted unanimously on Friday to reelect Ronna Romney McDaniel as party chair.

McDaniel, who is Romney's niece, has been an ardent defender of Trump since assuming the top RNC role in 2017, even criticizing her uncle for his op-ed earlier this month.

While Trump remains largely popular with Republican voters, his overall job approval has fallen in recent weeks amid a prolonged partial government shutdown. 

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released this week showed Trump’s approval dipping to just 34 percent — down 8 points from a month earlier.

Still, the poll showed Trump’s approval among Republican voters near 80 percent, suggesting that he largely has the support of his core voters.

Dozens of Democrats are weighing potential challenges to Trump in 2020. Among those who have already entered the race are Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Warren leads in speaking time during debate MORE (Calif.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandLobbying world 2020 Presidential Candidates Krystal Ball: Yang campaign a 'triumph of substance over the theatre' MORE (N.Y.).