I think that he, unlike Anthony Scaramucci, really is sincere in his conversion from Trump booster to Trump critic. Mooch doesn’t depend on the good graces of right-wing audiences to make a living. (If anything, turning on Trump will make life easier for him in Manhattan.) Walsh, a radio host for our parent company Salem, does. His policy criticisms of Trump have remained right-wing too, as you’ll see in the clip below when he complains about the deficit. He’s not turning into a progressive. Primarying Trump carries more professional risk for him than reward.
I even believe him when he says this in his recent op-ed for the Times:
In Mr. Trump, I see the worst and ugliest iteration of views I expressed for the better part of a decade. To be sure, I’ve had my share of controversy. On more than one occasion, I questioned Mr. Obama’s truthfulness about his religion. At times, I expressed hate for my political opponents. We now see where this can lead. There’s no place in our politics for personal attacks like that, and I regret making them.
The problem is that not everyone will be so forgiving. You can read through a smattering of the old Joe Walsh’s greatest Twitter hits here. The thought I had after digesting it: What happens when Trump starts retweeting some of those old Walsh tweets? “If I had said any of this the Fake News Media would be calling for impeachment! But because Joe Walsh hates Trump, they overlook it!” That’s what he’ll say, and he won’t be wrong.
Actually, to the extent that Trump and Walsh 1.0 were both Birthers, Trump *did* say some of the same things Walsh said. But the point stands: How many Never Trumpers eager to cast a protest vote against Trump for his character flaws will be scared away when reminded of Walsh’s old comments?
More to the point, how many casual consumers of politics will read the old Walsh tweets being showcased by Trump and conclude that, you know what, Trump really isn’t any worse or fringier than the rest of the GOP? It’s clear from the clip below that Walsh is planning to prosecute a moral case against Trump on the trail. Yeah, deficits are a problem, he says, but the urgent problem right now is that the president is a bad guy and morally vacant. That’s Walsh’s message in a nutshell. Trump’s going to answer that by throwing his old tweets in his face, and the effect, I suspect, will be to convince people that even the self-appointed moral exemplars of the right’s anti-Trump wing are up to their eyeballs in “Obama is a secret Muslim” nonsense.
The result? A sense that Trump *isn’t* that unhinged, relatively speaking. The fact that Walsh has apologized for the things he’s said and will continue to apologize might work to ease that feeling, or it might not. But if you’re organizing a primary challenge around the idea that the president is grossly unfit to occupy the office, logically you’d want a candidate who couldn’t be tagged with that same charge replete with supporting documentary evidence, wouldn’t you?
Ah, I’m probably overthinking it. You could clone Reagan, run him in the primary, and Trump’s still going to get 85 percent of the vote. Walsh is a good primary challenger for Trump in this sense: He obviously enjoys throwing verbal roundhouses at Trump and he’s practiced at communications from his time on the radio. Watching him call Trump a cretin every day for a few months will gratify the Never Trump id, even if it amounts to zippo in polls.