Weld also intends to challenge Trump’s immigration policy, despite Republican voters’ strong support for it. “A policy or campaign based on anti-immigrant spleen and fervor is not a noble campaign,” he says. To make the case, Weld hearkens back to 1854, when the Whig Party broke up and ex-Whigs split between the new Republican Party and the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party. The Know-Nothings “had violent rallies and they were given to conspiracy theories,” Weld says. “They’re the lineal forebearer of the Trump movement. And they disappeared. And the other half of the party—the Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush half, if you will—nominated Abraham Lincoln and got him elected four years later.”
Somehow this comparison manages to be both historically accurate and politically suicidal. Comparing Lincoln to Jeb Bush, who finished out 2016 at home, bingeing on ESPN, is not a play for the average Republican primary voter.
But this is precisely the point about Weld’s strategy. He’s not aiming to win over regular Republican primary voters, despite what his party affiliation might indicate. “I’ve always done better with Independents than I did with Republicans,” he says. Independents, he notes, make up about 40 percent of New Hampshire voters and can choose a Republican ballot in the state’s open primary. Weld also aims to enlarge the electorate by appealing to millennials and Gen-Xers with his willingness to fight climate change. “Millennials are not about to buy the argument that climate change and global warming is a hoax,” he says.