A few days ago we learned that Bill Weld, former Massachusetts Governor and sometimes Libertarian, was forming an exploratory committee to consider a primary run at Donald Trump next year. As Ed pointed out at the time, Weld was most recently seen as a national candidate on the Libertarian ticket in 2016, but apparently now has returned to the GOP fold. To the surprise of no one except possibly Weld himself, his announcement managed to raise the hackles of members of the Republican base. His response to their objections, however, sounded a bit off key for someone trying to win over their support. (WaPo)
Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld on Sunday defended his decision to pursue a 2020 Republican primary challenge against President Trump, saying in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week” that he is acting in the best interests of the country.
“I think the Republicans in Washington want to have no election, basically. I don’t think that would be very good for the country,” Weld told host Martha Raddatz.
Weld announced his decision in New Hampshire on Friday, becoming the first high-profile challenge to Trump’s reelection bid.
Republicans “want to have no election” now? Seriously? The WaPo appears to take that comment in stride, but I don’t seem to recall anyone complaining too loudly that Barack Obama didn’t draw a serious primary challenger in 2012. The fact is that primarying a sitting president helps nobody but the opposition. It can divide the party and depress turnout in the general election. There may be plenty of Republicans out there who aren’t thrilled with Donald Trump’s performance, but the vast majority (aside from some NeverTrumper remnants) are still going to like him a whole lot better than they would a President Sanders or Warren or Harris, etc.
If Weld is serious about using his exploratory committee for what its name implies, he might want to explore some of the numbers he’ll need to be crunching this year. As recently as this past Christmas, even CNN was saying that a primary challenge to Trump was looking like an impossible hill to climb. His approval rating among registered Republicans was above 80%, and that was after pretty much all of the various “scandals” had been baked into the cake except for the recent emergency declaration. (And does anyone honestly believe that’s going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and drives the base off?)
And it’s not as if Bill Weld is the knight in shining armor that the GOP base has been pining for. Unless you live in or around Massachusetts, there’s a good chance that you didn’t even recognize his name when he made his announcement last week. The last time any of you saw him, as I mentioned above, was in a quixotic Libertarian bid in 2016 that went absolutely nowhere.
There is no shadowy Weld vote hiding in the GOP base that would suddenly imperil Trump’s chances to be the 2020 nominee. The only thing that’s going to change that would be if he was actually impeached and removed from office. And even then, President Pence’s approval numbers would likely be even higher.