“Can a pro-choice, pro-amnesty ‘Libertarian for life’ who backed Barack Obama in 2008, thinks the phrase ‘all lives matter’ is ‘nothing but a dog whistle,’ and maintained throughout 2016 that Hillary Clinton is preferable to Donald Trump, truly be competitive in the 2020 Republican Party presidential primary?” wrote Matt Welch back in February, tongue in cheek, about Weld’s announcement that he was forming an exploratory committee.
He forgot to note that Weld also supports gay marriage and a return to the Paris Accord on climate change.
Weld would be DOA even if Trump’s job approval among Republicans wasn’t 90 percent, which it is. It’s almost unfathomable to imagine a sitting president of either party who takes care to pander to his base being credibly threatened by a primary challenge. In all of the famous modern cases of incumbents being weakened by insurgents in primaries — Bush ’92, Carter ’80, Ford ’76 — the challenger succeeded by mobilizing populist rage among the party’s base at the president’s centrism. Trump is rock solid with his own base, forcing Weld to somehow convince centrist casual voters that it’s worth their time to trudge down to the polls on primary day and cast a ballot that’s destined to be meaningless except as a symbolic protest against the president.
I could understand him toying with a presidential run two months ago when Trump’s legal liability from Russiagate was still an open question, figuring there was a tiny chance that Mueller would drop a bombshell that would somehow detonate Trump’s credibility. Any primary challenger who found himself pitted against a president suddenly facing a major scandal would benefit — not enough to win, in all likelihood, but maybe enough to pull 35-40 percent of the vote and send the proverbial message. Now that we know there won’t be any criminal charges from Mueller, though, his strategy eludes me. Is he counting on some other criminal probe of the president in the Southern District of New York to deliver the coup de grace instead? Does he just have nothing better to do?
Sounds from this clip like he’s betting everything on New Hampshire, which makes sense. It’s next door to his home state of Massachusetts, so the locals know him, and it’s a state where unaffiliated voters can vote in either primary, which seems like it might benefit Weld. Chances are that if you’re unaffiliated you’re more centrist than the average lefty or right. Why not grab a Republican ballot on primary day and cast an anti-Trump vote for Weld? The obvious answer: Because, er, Democrats are going to be holding their own primary on the same day that’s about 8,000 times more important to deciding the next president than the Republican primary will be. What unaffiliated voter in his right mind would pass on the chance to help decide the shape of the Democratic presidential contest in order to help Bill Weld lose to Trump 89/11 instead of 90/10?
Eh, at least there’ll be a place for regular GOP voters who are anti-Trump to park votes.