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GOP Take On The Big Democratic Field


Twenty - count them, 20 Democratic candidates are running for president in 2020. It's more than enough for two baseball teams. Former Vice President Joe Biden entered late this week. Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts declared on Monday. Twenty is a lot. You may remember that in 2016, there were also a heap of Republican candidates that eventually dwindled to one.

Republican strategist John Weaver worked then for John Kasich, now the former governor of Ohio, during that wild and crazy ride. Mr. Weaver joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

JOHN WEAVER: Happy to be with you, Scott. Thanks for having me.

SIMON: You know what it's like to be in the pack. What advice can you offer Democrats who want to stand above it?

WEAVER: Well, first off, I would recommend, to thine own self be true, and run the kind of campaign that you would be proud of, and not try to cater to the whims of the Twitter mob or what you think you might find success on social media. And I think we're seeing that already. You see the rise of the young mayor from Indiana and others who seem to be capturing that moment.

SIMON: What do you do when there are 20 candidates and, on almost any given issue, 18 of them agree?

WEAVER: It's very difficult. I think many of them don't really have a strategy other than hoping lightning strikes, which is not going to get it done, as you know, Scott.

Really, we have two candidates with 100% name ID in Senator Sanders and Vice President Biden. They're going to dominate the field, probably, in these out months until you get into Iowa and New Hampshire, where a candidate could really focus their time and attention and catch lightning in a bottle by actually earning some votes. But between now and then, it's going to be hard for anybody else to garner attention.

SIMON: Based on your experience on the other side of the divide, do these 20 candidates have a responsibility to their eventual nominee not to stab each other too fiercely?

WEAVER: Do they have that responsibility? Yes. The human pathos being what it is, that's not going to happen. You know, this is not beanbag. They're all in there fighting for the nomination or for their careers and for the things they believe in. And, unfortunately, for many of them and for their teams, the end justifies the means in achieving the nomination or achieving success. So I suspect it's going to be a pretty hard-fought primary.

I think people shouldn't hand-wring about how tough it's going to be, as long as it doesn't cross into anything resembling what Donald Trump has done or how he conducts himself, which I'm pretty sure it won't.

SIMON: I want to ask you to take a look at the Republican side. You, obviously, have been a vocal opponent of the - well, the current leader of your party. What would have to happen for there to be a really credible primary challenger?

WEAVER: Well, I think all those things have happened. Unfortunately, no one has made a decision to move forward. I hope Governor Kasich does. If he doesn't, I hope Governor Hogan does. You know, Scott, we've lost - 12 to 15 million Republicans have left the party since Donald Trump became president.

The big question for a new challenger is, will any of those people come back and vote in the primary? And the odds of defeating Donald Trump for the nomination are pretty slim. I do think that a challenger - a significant challenger could defeat Trump in New Hampshire. After that, it'd be more difficult. But for my own...

SIMON: Let me interrupt long enough to - is there a chance Governor Kasich will get in? What do you hear?

WEAVER: Well, I - he's keeping all of his options open. All - he's in the early stages of planning a return trip back to New Hampshire. He's looking at it...

SIMON: Well, it's beautiful this time of year.

WEAVER: Apparently, it's beautiful year-round this time - in election cycles.


SIMON: Republican strategist John Weaver, thanks so much for being with us.

WEAVER: Thank you, Scott.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this interview, John Weaver incorrectly says no Republicans have decided to run for president. In fact, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld formally declared his candidacy on April 15.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: April 29, 2019 at 12:00 AM EDT
In this interview, John Weaver incorrectly says no Republicans have decided to run for president. In fact, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld formally declared his candidacy on April 15.