It appears as though President Donald Trump will have at least one challenger for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2020: former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.
Weld, 73, has launched a presidential exploratory committee — a typical precursor to a White House run — setting up a potential challenge to Trump for the GOP nomination. Weld served as the Republican governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997 but switched his party identification to Libertarian to run as former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson’s vice presidential candidate in 2016. Weld recently switched his party identification back to Republican, igniting speculation that he might challenge Trump.
Weld said the United States is in “grave peril” in prepared remarks at a “Politics & Eggs” breakfast in Bedford, New Hampshire, on Friday, according to the Boston Herald. He sharply criticized Trump, saying he is unable to carry out his duties “in a competent and professional manner” and his priorities “are skewed toward promotion of himself rather than toward the good of the country.”
Weld said some members of the Republican Party who support Trump “exhibit all the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome, identifying with their captor.” He checked Trump for his “narcissism and his compulsive behaviors.”
According to the Herald, Weld also took a swipe at Democrats:
Weld said that if he doesn’t win, he will not commit to supporting the Republican nominee.
This isn’t the first time Weld has criticized Trump. While campaigning as a Libertarian in 2016, Weld said he had “fear” for the country if Trump was elected and predicted his presidency would be “chaos.” In an interview with Rachel Maddow, he said he was “vouching for” Hillary Clinton and was highly complimentary of her record, though he stopped short of endorsing her. Of course, Weld was on a ticket that divided some of the anti-Trump vote that wound up getting him elected.
Some Republicans seem open to an alternative to Trump
It’s not clear what path Weld, specifically, sees to winning the Republican nomination. But there appears to be at least some appetite among some in the GOP for a challenge to Trump.
A Morning Consult poll released this week found that one-third of Republicans would vote for a primary challenger to Trump, while 51 percent would not, and 15 percent are not sure. Republicans who are black, disaffected with the party, moderate, and young are especially likely to be open to voting to someone other than Trump for the 2020 GOP ticket.
Twenty-one percent of those who voted for Trump in 2016 are considering voting for a different political party in 2020. A Monmouth University poll from November 2018 found that across the entire public, just three in 10 Americans want Trump to be reelected to another term.
Trump has been a historically unpopular president, and his approval rating was especially hard hit by the 35-day government shutdown he initiated at the end of 2018 over his insistence on $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall. (He eventually gave in, without the border wall money.) Since the end of the shutdown, his rating has improved, with 41.5 percent of Americans now saying they approve of the job he is doing in the White House.
It’s unclear what all this means for potential Republican challenges to Trump in 2020. Beyond Weld, there has also been speculation that others might challenge him, including Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
Trump has been running for reelection essentially since he was sworn in — he literally filed the paperwork for his reelection campaign the day of his inauguration. And the Republican establishment, thus far, is standing behind him. There has been discussion of canceling primaries in some states as a way to keep challengers away, and the Republican National Committee in January voted to give their “undivided support” to Trump in 2020.
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