Amash won't rule out Libertarian challenge to Trump

Amash won't rule out Libertarian challenge to Trump

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria pullout Grand Rapids synagogue targeted with anti-Semitic posters on its door MORE (R-Mich.) on Tuesday said he would not rule out a third-party challenge to President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE in 2020.

The Hill asked Amash if he is thinking about leaving the Republican Party to run for president as the Libertarian Party candidate.

“I’m just focused on defending the Constitution, it’s not something I’ve thought about,” Amash said. “I don’t take things off the table like that, but it’s not something at the forefront of my considerations right now. I’m just focused on my job. I wouldn’t take running for governor off the table or Senate or statehouse, I don’t take things off the table.” 

Amash this week became the first Republican in the House to support impeachment proceedings against Trump.

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In interviews this year, Amash has toyed with the idea of switching parties and running for president. The Michigan Republican has described himself as the only Libertarian member of Congress and has been increasingly critical of the GOP, accusing the party of abandoning its conservative values in the age of Trump.

Libertarian National Committee Chairman Nicholas Sarwark told The Hill there’s a full-scale effort underway to convince Amash to register as a Libertarian and run for president against Trump.

“There are a lot of Libertarian Party members actively encouraging Rep. Amash to switch parties and seek the Libertarian nomination,” Sarwark said. “This is probably the most organized recruitment effort I’ve seen going back to 2012 when people were trying to recruit [former Texas Rep.] Ron Paul.”

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonThe Trump strategy: Dare the Democrats to win Trump challenger: 'All bets are off' if I win New Hampshire primary Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE was the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 2016. Massachusetts Gov. William WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldGeorge Conway donates to Trump challenger Joe Walsh Analysis: Warren and Booker most cyber-aware 2020 candidates Trump campaign takes steps to ensure critics are not represented at 2020 convention MORE ran on the ticket as vice president.

There was hope in some quarters that Johnson would meet the polling requirements to make the general election debate stage, but he struggled with embarrassing gaffes and Washington insiders never took his candidacy seriously.

Still, the Johnson-Weld ticket earned 4.5 million votes in the general election, tripling the previous best showing by the Libertarian Party.

There is hunger in some quarters on the right for a conservative challenger to Trump in 2020.

Weld launched a primary challenge earlier this year, but his candidacy has failed to gain traction. Trump maintains about 90 percent support from Republicans, and the national party has taken steps ensure a primary challenger does not pose a threat to the president’s reelection efforts.

The “Never Trump” Republicans, led by former Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, have been trying to recruit their own candidate to either run in the primary or as an independent, with no success.

There has generally not been much overlap between Kristol’s neoconservatism and the libertarian right, but Kristol and his allies have praised Amash for taking a stand on the matter of impeachment.

“I say this as someone at odds with Amash on lots of issues important to me and I think to him — all honor to Justin Amash, who has done so much today to set an example of constitutional responsibility and mature, civic discourse,” Kristol tweeted.

National Review writer David French, whom Kristol tried to recruit to challenge Trump in 2016, said he’d vote for Amash if he is the Libertarian Party nominee in 2020.

While third-party efforts traditionally have fallen into the background of a presidential race, Amash could have an enormous impact on the 2020 general election in his home state of Michigan.

Trump carried Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes, and the Wolverine State will be a top battleground state for both sides in 2020, along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Trump’s allies are not taking the threat from Amash seriously at the moment, dismissing chatter about his third-party bid as a total fantasy.

Still, the White House and GOP leaders in Congress are furious with Amash for taking a stance in favor of impeachment.

The president has lashed out at Amash over Twitter, calling him a “total lightweight” and accusing him of grandstanding “for the sake of getting his name out there.” 

“Justin is a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents’ hands,” Trump said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe comments and actions of Schiff demand his formal censure Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' during Syria meeting, top Democrats say Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show MORE (R-Calif.) has unloaded on Amash, calling his remarks about impeachment “disturbing” and questioning “whether he’s even in our Republican conference.”

“He never supported the president, and I think he's just looking for attention,” McCarthy said on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures."

McCarthy also accused Amash, who co-sponsored the bill to block Trump’s emergency declaration at the border, of voting more with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLawmakers, social media users praise photo of Pelosi confronting Trump Trump turns Pelosi's 'meltdown' criticism around: 'She is a very sick person' Trump threat lacks teeth to block impeachment witnesses MORE (D-Calif.) than with Republicans.

“I think everyone knows he’s lying,” Amash fired back. “But that’s typical Kevin."

Updated at 4 p.m.