Donald Trump
Credit: Michael Vadon/Flickr

Businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says that there’s something wrong with President Trump’s head and that he’s thinking of challenging him in the 2020 presidential election. He also says that he’s more likely to make the plunge if the Republicans hold onto power in Congress after the upcoming midterm elections. From the sound of things, he envisions running as an independent rather than as a Democrat or a Republican, and he has the money to finance an independent or third-party campaign. If his candidacy becomes more than pure speculation, I’ll have a lot to say about his fitness for the job, but I’m not much interested in Cuban’s prospects at the moment. I’m more interested in the idea of removing Trump from power through a strong third-party challenge, regardless of who the vehicle for that challenge might be.

In this day and age, we have so much data that it should be relatively easy to figure out exactly which voters you need to get to deny Trump a second term and also which messages you’ll need to use to attract just the right segment of the electorate to peel off many more votes from Trump than from the Democrat.

Actually winning an independent challenge might be more possible than ever for the exact same reason, but that’s still a much tougher hill to climb. Armed with the right information, you could build a candidate who is ideally suited to make sure Trump cannot win a second term. Without access to that data, I can only speculate about how such a candidate should position themselves. They would want to be on the conservative side of most issues, but I think they’d get more bang for the buck peeling off moderate Republicans than going after former Democrats who drifted into the Republicans’ camp over the last few presidential election cycles. Trump lost a lot of moderate Republicans, but he still retained a shocking number of them who just couldn’t pull the lever for Hillary Clinton. Our hypothetical independent candidate would rather win over these voters than former Democrats who might drift back to the Democrats’ column with a different candidate to support.

Given how narrowly Trump won the election last time, any division on the right might be sufficient, so I can’t say that coming at Trump from the troglodyte right wouldn’t work. But those voters have shown the most loyalty to Trump so they seem like the least promising prospects.

Another factor is that it simply wouldn’t be good for the country to have two hard right candidates and one of the alternatives to Trump coming after him for insufficient conservatism. Running to the middle in a Republican primary field might be helpful from a health point of view, but it would probably be a hopeless cause. A challenge launched on competency, decency, honesty, and loyalty to country might be a better way to vie for the GOP nomination than one based on more middle of the road policies.

In any case, if I were to design this candidacy, it would leave the economic populism to the Democratic candidate and the independent would focus like a laser on getting the upscale suburban voters that have been running away from Trump but not yet into the arms of the Democrats. The only downside would be that this would be more likely to boost Republican turnout in the congressional races, but it would probably doom Trump to numbers so low in the places like the Philly suburbs that he’d have no prospect of reelection.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at