The Billy Meehan Clam Bake is a family thing, a time for Philadelphia’s Republicans to catch up, talk politics, down a few beers, and, of course, toss back a few clams.
They did it again Sunday, for the 33rd year in a row. It looked as if everyone had a good time.
But for the Republicans, a family fight is clearly brewing across the country.
President Trump went to Phoenix last week for a campaign rally, whipping up the crowd with criticism of that state’s two senators — both Republicans: John McCain and Jeff Flake.
The president also stepped up his Twitter attacks on two other key Republicans, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Bob Paduchik, co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, came to Philly on Sunday to speak at the clambake. Paduchik ran Trump’s 2016 campaign in Ohio and helped the victor take on and defeat a rival GOP faction in that state.
He also chairs the RNC’s Presidential Nominating Process Committee, which met in Nashville last week. Paduchik said more than 80 people who are not on that committee showed up to listen in.
So is there an appetite for a 2020 Republican primary challenger for Trump?
“Look, I think there are zero odds,” Paduchik said, rattling off points about job creation, the unemployment rate, the stock market, and the rollback of federal regulations since Trump took office. “You don’t run against somebody that’s doing a great job.”
And while Paduchik would later complain on stage that the media are focused on any sign of Republican disunity, let’s face it: There are plenty of signs of Republican disunity.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich was on the losing side of the battle for control of the GOP in his state.
Kasich, who also lost to Trump in last year’s Republican presidential primary, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday morning to criticize the president on several issues.
And then Kasich suggested that Congress just push the president to the sidelines.
“Congress should assert itself,” Kasich said. “Let them get their act together and pass the agenda they want.”
The tremors in the Republican Party were apparently serious enough to prompt Tony Fabrizio, Trump’s 2016 campaign pollster, to tweet a new poll last Wednesday.
Fabrizio’s point: 50 percent of Republican voters would vote for Trump today for president.
The point Fabrizio probably didn’t mean to make: That means 50 percent of Republicans would vote for someone else today for president instead of Trump.
We’ll know next year whether the Republican infighting is really going to mean anything in 2020. The 2018 mid-term elections will be a time when the Republicans settle down or settle scores.
Trump, before his rally in Phoenix, met with Republicans considering challenges to Flake next year, according to Politico.
Then he went on stage and called Flake weak on crime and border security.
Will Trump be campaigning for Republican insurgent candidates next year, looking to take out his party’s incumbents in Congress, creating more division?
“I don’t know,” Paduchik said. “We haven’t talked about those primaries.”