Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld announced Monday he’ll challenge Donald Trump in the Republican primary, citing the President’s divisiveness and penchant for governing by crisis.
During a telephone interview, Weld said he deliberately wanted to make this announcement on a state holiday in Massachusetts.
“I chose today to do this because this is Patriots Day. I would like to think most folks I talk to are patriots. They love our country and they love their people,” said Weld, 73.
“This President tries to inspire the hatred of everybody else outside the country,” he said.
The 2016 Libertarian Party candidate also ruled out supporting Trump for a second term if his challenge comes up short.
“I’m not prepared to say I could support the Democrat, but I could not in good conscience support Mr. Trump. I think he has been too divisive with his nationalist rhetoric. He’s trying to stir the pot and set the peoples’ teeth on edge,” Weld said.
For two months Weld explored this race and made several trips to New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation primary, to test the waters.
“I’ve never been so psyched for anything in my life,” he said. “The Republicans and Democrats have the country so divided. We need to go back to looking out for all Americans, all economic groups, all religions.”
“We clearly don’t have that now.”
During two terms as governor of Massachusetts, Weld was rated as the most fiscally conservative chief executive by the Wall Street Journal.
Weld said both parties are at fault for embracing tax cuts that weren’t paid for and presiding over record debt.
“I have the political will to cut spending, which nobody in Washington does; that would be my number-one priority,” Weld said. “I cut taxes 21 times, but you have to cut spending before you cut taxes and they haven’t done any of that.”
Weld said it’s not surprising polls show Trump has nearly 90 percent support among Republicans. Most Americans haven’t yet focused and those who have are pushed toward Trump due to the hyper-partisanship, he said.
“If you look at the party apparatus, they are all taking their dictation from Washington, so of course there is going to be 100 percent support. But once people start paying attention to the situation we are in, I believe that’s going to change,” Weld said.
A former federal prosecutor, Weld said it was “terrible” for Attorney General William Barr to tell the Senate recently that “spying did occur” against the Trump campaign in 2016. Barr said he intends to look at the origins of what ultimately led to the Mueller report.
“I thought that was terrible. I spent seven years in the Justice Department, five trying to keep politics out of the office of U.S. Attorney in Boston and two in Washington trying to do the same thing,” Weld said.
“I can tell you if the FBI wants to open an investigation they absolutely have the right — the duty — to do so. To say there was spying was completely unacceptable.”
During the Reagan administration, Weld ran the criminal division of the Department of Justice.
Weld becomes the first and may be the only major contender to try to defeat Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. Several other prospects have passed taking on the controversial incumbent.
“That has surprised me. I thought there would be others doing this but that’s OK. If I’m the only one so be it; if others get in that would be fine too,” Weld said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan hasn’t ruled out running and comes to New Hampshire next Tuesday (April 23) to speak at the Politics and Eggs forum on the campus of Saint Anselm College.
In this race, Weld will offer many contrasts to Trump on key issues.
Weld supports abortion rights, favors gun control and on immigration seeks expanding a guest worker program rather than placing further restrictions.
He’s also been very critical of Trump’s trade tariffs.
Weld was on the 2016 Libertarian Party ticket as the vice presidential candidate to former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.
New Hampshire GOP Chairman Stephen Stepanek said he’ll remain neutral in this race but predicted many GOP voters will question why Weld split with the party in 2016.
Weld said he’s always embraced the principles of fiscal responsibility and social tolerance that marked much of the history of the Republican Party.
While Trump ran on “Make America Great Again,” Weld said his mantra is to make the Republican Party great again.