Bill Weld in Derry

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld spoke to a small crowd at Halligan Tavern in Derry Thursday.

DERRY — The sole Republican running against President Trump as of now in the presidential primary criticized many of Trump’s policies Thursday, and called his nuclear weapons rhetoric unhelpful.

Speaking to a gathering of about 40 voters in Derry, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld also said his electoral strategy is grounded in New Hampshire.

Weld began his talk, one of his first in the state, by outlining specific ways he would govern differently than Trump if he were President. He said he would prioritize balancing the federal budget and reducing the deficit, find ways to save jobs or train up workers who lose jobs from the advent of artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, and he said he would address climate change with science-based solutions.

He criticized Trump for calling global climate change a hoax, and said the proposed introduction of more wind and solar energy production is the correct part of the Democrats’ Green New Deal bill, but he would add nuclear energy to the mix.

Weld said concerns about nuclear energy waste are misplaced, as he said any waste can be safely buried in the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository or otherwise in the ocean.

He said nuclear energy should supply about 15 to 25 percent of the nation’s power grid.

Weld spoke a lot about the challenges and opportunities presented by burgeoning technology. In particular, he said robots, machine-learning super-computers and self-driving vehicles will eliminate between 15 and 25 percent of all the jobs that exist today in 10 to 15 years.

He proposed creating online training programs or two-year community college courses to get people unemployed by that pivot toward automation back into gainful employment. Weld said finding the funding for such a program would be “child’s play.”

“The work that needs to be done is not being done,” Weld said.

Weld said the Trump administration added another $9 trillion to the U.S. deficit, which he said totals about $30 trillion now.

“That’s completely irresponsible,” he said.

While Weld said his libertarian brand of Republicanism steers him away from government involvement as much as possible, he said the Affordable Care Act did do a good thing by getting 20 million people enrolled in health insurance. But he said the law is too heavy handed with decisions made by government that should be left to the people. Weld also said he favored the creation of health savings accounts.

Weld, who describes himself as pro-choice, was 2016 Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s running mate.

He also said the government is dropping the ball on education, and touted a program in Massachusetts that he said helped bring the K-12 test scores to top national rankings.

When asked if the President should have the sole authority to use nuclear weapons, Weld said “we definitely need a check” on the President’s power to start nuclear war.

He criticized the statements Trump made in 2017 when he threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

“The President of the United States should not talk that way,” Weld said. “It’s not helpful.”

He also criticized the President’s isolationist policies, and what he described as Trump’s tendency to “insult our allies” and “play up to dictators.”

On the issue of immigration, Weld said the country needs more migrant workers, especially in agriculture and manufacturing. He said he was always proud that the U.S. was a melting pot of race and culture.

“Mr. Trump seems to want to have a lily white nation. I’m not exaggerating,” he said.

Weld also said he supports bills that would allow refinancing of student debt, views legal gun ownership as a bulwark against government, and believes the lower the taxes, the better.

“I never met a tax cut I didn’t like,” Weld said.

He said he plans to win the nomination by focusing on the Granite State. “My strategy for election is grounded in large measure in New Hampshire,” Weld said.

He said in Iowa they make corn but in New Hampshire they make presidents. Weld’s campaign staff says he isn’t shunning the first caucus state, but he’ll be spending more time in New Hampshire instead.Soon, Weld said they would be releasing the names of his steering committee, which he described as consisting of people from the “Bush faction” and the “Romney faction.”

Still, Weld said the state GOP seems to be employing a strategy of ignoring him.

“They won’t even utter my name,” he said.

Longtime Derry resident Dave Nelson said he was impressed by Weld.

“I 100 percent endorse his fiscal conservatism,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he voted for Jeb Bush in the 2016 primary, and Trump in the general election, but he’s now looking for an alternative to Trump.

“I’d like to see a more open primary field for the Republicans,” Nelson said.

But he said he understands the prevailing wisdom is that incumbents are “pre-ordained.”

Nelson said he thought Trump’s brash businessman approach has led to some successful initiatives, but he gave him a C+ to a B- grade for effectiveness. He also didn’t think Trump represented the country well in statecraft.

“His rhetoric is irrational and intemperate,” Nelson said of Trump.

The event at Halligan Tavern in Derry was the first in a series of candidate speaking events organized by the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.