All Anti-Trump, All the Time Is Bill Weld’s Campaign Theme

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As thousands attended President Donald Trump’s rally in Wildwood, New Jersey this past week, about 20 of his Republican detractors gathered at the beachfront Beauport Hotel in Gloucester, Massachusetts at an event for one of his primary challengers.

Donors paid anywhere from $100 to $2,800 to spend an evening with former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, in a pair of function rooms at a four-star hotel for cocktails and appetizers such as carpaccio, stuffed mushrooms, and herbed goat cheese.

What brought them together was their desire to stop President Trump from winning re-election –more so than even wanting a Weld presidency.

“I’m an optimist,” Weld, who served as governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997, told his supporters in a speech. “I think Trump is such a cancer on the body of politics. He’s going to leave at some point, I certainly hope it’s going to be in 2020. I think it will be. I don’t think people are so stupid as to re-elect a guy who has as much bad news about him as this guy. It may take a while for it to sink in and ultimately, there will be some snapback from people who support him. The most important thing to me is that Trump not be re-elected.”

During his speech, Weld spoke about how giving Trump a primary challenger should put him on a tougher road to re-election, citing paleoconservative Pat Buchanan’s primary challenge to George H.W. Bush in 1992; Buchanan got 37 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary that year.

In New Hampshire, Weld is hoping to replicate that success. He is hoping a mix of low turnout and crossover voting from independents could boost his support.

There’s little evidence yet that the strategy is working. 

According to a December 2019 WBUR New Hampshire primary poll, 74 percent of likely voters say they will likely vote for Trump in the primary. Just 9 percent said they would pick Weld.

Weld said his brand of northeast Republicanism, which he calls “fiscally conservative and socially tolerant,” is like that of the New Hampshire GOP. Weld supports abortion, affirmative action, gun control, and a carbon tax of at least $40 per ton. This would raise the price of gasoline by 36 cents per gallon, according to the Tax Policy Center. Weld also endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008.

During his speech, Weld compared Trump to fascists.

“Mr. Trump is bent on dismantling a lot of our democratic institutions to amass greater power to himself,” he said. “Anyone who starts out by saying a free press is the enemy of the people is clearly doing some reading in the Hitler-Mussolini playbook.”

Weld spoke with New Boston Post prior to the event, which took place Tuesday, January 28, and said that if he is not the nominee, he would vote for Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden or Senator Amy Klobuchar, if either is their party’s nominee.

Although he sees Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as radically left-wing, he did not completely rule out supporting them over Trump, either.

“I think both Senator Sanders and Senator Warren are way out there with their proposals of increased taxation,” Weld told New Boston Post in an interview before the event. “Having said that, I would under no circumstances support Trump for any public office. When I started in this race, I was thinking about issues like free trade and the budget, but now I’m thinking about saving the democratic institutions. If the Democrat who is nominated is extreme left, I might go Libertarian because I’m sympathetic to that platform.”

One of those Libertarians that Weld could support is former Rhode Island senator and governor Lincoln Chafee, whom Weld encouraged to join the Libertarian Party last year.

Weld said if he does not earn the Republican nomination, he would not run third-party this time around. In 2016, he was the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee.

Although Weld wants Trump to lose the 2020 presidential election, he said he thinks it could result in the death of the Republican Party. He thinks the coalition as it stands may cease to exist in the coming years as mass immigration changes demographics and there are more non-white voters in elections

“I’m not sure the party is going to continue to exist in its current form if it continues its embrace of Trump,” he told New Boston Post. “The evidence that’s been rolled out is pretty persuasive that the president should’ve been impeached and removed by now. If the Republicans just go in lockstep and say they’re sticking with this guy, that’s the equivalent of saying the emperor has a fancy suit and new clothes. People will see past that and eventually, a number of those Republicans will lose their seats.

“If you have a wounded Republican Party, things might spiral out of control and out of their current form,” he added. “I think there’s some danger the party might split in half after the 2020 election depending on what happens the way the Whig Party did. One half of the Whig Party was nativist and had an anti-Catholic prejudice and the other half went on to elect Abraham Lincoln. But the Know-Nothing Party was a very unappealing group.”

As for how he would go about attracting minority voters, Weld said embracing education and school choice is one key for Republicans and another is cracking down on what he views as red-lining in the housing market – meaning that lenders are denying loans to certain people because of their race.

“It goes beyond affirmative action,” he told New Boston Post. “I think the minority community also appreciates when people tell the truth. When Mr. Trump comes out and tells four congresswomen of color to go back where they came from, I was at an NAACP conference in Detroit with 10 Democratic candidates. They all tiptoed around that, so I took the floor and said, ‘Let’s get one thing straight:  the president is an outrageous racist and all of the Republicans in Washington have a choice to make. It’s a moral choice and if they don’t disavow this outrageous racism, they’re all going to lose their seats’.”

Trump has previously stated that he would not participate in any Republican primary debates. The incumbent has largely ignored his primary challengers: Weld, and former U.S. Representative Joe Walsh (R-Illinois). 

The Iowa caucuses for both Democrats and Republicans is set for Monday, February 3. Then New Hampshire holds the first primary in the nation on Tuesday, February 11.