Republicans don’t want a less offensive version of Trump; they like the fully offensive version just fine. The people now wavering will come home to Trump when the Democratic nominee, whoever that is, is depicted as an America-hating socialist by the Republican Party and its media allies such as Fox News. And if they’re unlikely to choose Walsh, then they certainly don’t want anything to do with Weld, an old-school moderate with progressive views on social issues. Weld is offering a serious debate about fiscal discipline and a return to a rational foreign policy. But the party doesn’t want to have that debate. Republicans chose Trump in 2016, and there’s no evidence now of buyer’s remorse.
Some anti-Trump Republicans may see a primary challenge as protecting the GOP brand, in the vain hope that the party can recover from Trump, if and when the president is vanquished. They may be trying to think through various ways that Trump loses to the Democratic nominee while laying the groundwork for a 2024 GOP recovery…
The more plausible, and more dangerous, outcome of any Republican primary challenge is that it turns into a right-leaning, third-party effort in the general election that splits the anti-Trump vote, not Trump’s support, because it would allow right-leaning voters to slide into a second Trump term untainted by actually voting for the man himself. As in 2016, they could say that they voted neither for a Democrat — perish the thought — nor for Trump.
But Trump represents an existential crisis of American government. There is only one way to defeat him, and that is by amassing 270 electoral votes. Only a Democrat can do that, and so anything other than a vote for the Democratic nominee amounts to tacit — or, at best, unintentional — support for the incumbent.