- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 12, 2020

As the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary quickly approach, President Trump faces no serious internal challengers for the GOP nomination.

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford briefly mounted an effort to oust Mr. Trump, only to drop out quickly — at least giving him more time to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld can’t seem to poll higher than 5% in New Hampshire, his neighboring state, though he reportedly continues campaigning (no one can seem to recall seeing him anywhere).

And former Rep. Joe Walsh, a one-term tea party congressman from Illinois turned radio host, had a brief boomlet when he announced his candidacy before returning to well-deserved obscurity.

Yet Mr. Trump has done things to offend people who call themselves conservatives and open himself to an internal challenge. He has presided over record federal deficits, expanded America’s footprint in the Middle East despite pledging to withdraw, and has led a personal life that is more National Enquirer than Saturday Evening Post.

Even at this late date, there is perhaps one potential Republican candidate who could present a real challenge to the incumbent. Dave Ramsey, the Tennessee-based personal finance guru who hosts an eponymous radio show with some 14 million weekly listeners, would likely be a real contender were he to enter the race.

Mr. Ramsey, whose personal finance empire spans podcasts to books to courses taught in churches across the country, combines Mr. Trump’s strengths — his charisma, his deep bond with his fans, his business acumen — with virtues that the president lacks. Mr. Ramsey is a deeply religious Christian who has been married to the same woman for nearly four decades. He disdains debt — indeed, the foundation of his radio show is teaching people who to eliminate their own — while Mr. Trump has called himself “the king” of the stuff. Dave Ramsey himself went bankrupt in his late 20s, and he has spent the rest of his life teaching people to avoid the mess that he got himself into.

Mr. Ramsey is no socialist — he preaches self-reliance and deplores politicians like Democratic front-runner Sen. Bernard Sanders who promise endless giveaways. When a caller details a lifestyle spent borrowing and spending irresponsibly, he will tell him to “stop spending like you’re in Congress.”

But Mr. Ramsey is also a true populist, speaking often, for instance, of his hatred of payday lenders, who he says “oppress the poor” and credit card companies who are, in Mr. Ramsey’s words, “scum.” Despite his fixation on money — he’s built an empire teaching people how to manage it — Mr. Ramsey is also refreshingly unmaterialistic. Sure, he likes the finer things, he has a particular affinity for nice cars. But he is also clear that one of the reasons to build wealth is to be in a position to give it away. He believes in “outrageous generosity,” Mr. Ramsey often says.

Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Ramsey provides a quality sorely lacking in both his chosen medium, talk radio, as well as in American politics: compassion.

For whatever reason, those who have thrived in talk radio have tended to be acerbic and often outright mean. Shock-jock king Howard Stern built his empire by exploiting people with mental and physical handicaps for yuks. Political talkers Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin delight in ridiculing their political enemies. Even Dr. Laura Schlessinger, for four decades a dispenser of often superb advice, tends to project judgment rather than empathy. Sure, she’s usually right — but she’ll yell at her callers to get her point across. Mr. Ramsey, on the other hand, presents himself as a friend. “I’ll walk with you,” he tells his strapped and stressed callers. This is a message nearly unheard of in both radio and in politics, and one that America would be the better off with more of.

Mr. Ramsey has in the past declaimed any interest in running for office. “A full head of hair is a requirement — I’m disqualified right there,” he has joked. But should he change his mind, he can immediately count on at least one powerful backer.

Dave Ramsey for president? “I would love to see it!” Mark Cuban, the multibillionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks and co-host of CNBC’s “Shark Tank” tells me. “He would be different and a breath of fresh air.”

In fact, Mr. Cuban, says, he would even be opening to being Mr. Ramsey’s running mate. “That’s a long shot. But it would be fun,” he tells me.

Ramsey-Cuban has a nice ring to it.

• Ethan Epstein is deputy opinion editor of The Washington Times. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ethanepstiiiine.

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