Republican Party chair says primary challengers to Trump would 'lose horribly'

OXON HILL, Md (Reuters) - The chair of the Republican National Committee said on Thursday that any Republican primary challenge to President Donald Trump in next year’s presidential election is doomed to fail.

“They have the right to jump in and lose, that’s fine,” Ronna McDaniel said at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual political gathering of Republicans near Washington. “They will lose horribly.”

Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, who ran against Trump for the Republican nomination in 2016, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan have been mentioned as possible challengers to Trump, who has already announced he is running for a second term.

Earlier this month, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld said he was considering challenging the president for the Republican nomination.

McDaniel, who was named to her position by Trump, has made the Republican National Committee (RNC) a staunch ally of the president and a partner in his 2020 campaign effort.

She noted Trump enjoys a 93 percent approval rating among Republicans.

“Have at it. Go ahead. Waste your money. Waste your time. And go ahead and lose,” she said of potential Republican competitors.

Some RNC members have called for rule changes to thwart any primary challenge, but McDaniel seemed to suggest that will not occur.

Officials from the Trump administration also appeared at the conference to make the case for Trump’s re-election.

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, warned of proposed Democratic Party programs such the Green New Deal, a sweeping plan to combat climate change advocated by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others.

The plan “will literally destroy the economy,” Kudlow said.

Trump will address the conference on Saturday following his return from Vietnam, where he held a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The meeting ended abruptly on Thursday without a deal on North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

Reporting by James Oliphant; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis