Bill Weld undeterred in Trump challenge despite low polling numbers
The New Hampshire primaries might be over but former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, the Republican vying to dislodge President Trump, believes he is not.
Netting 9 percent in Tuesday’s Republican primary, Weld believes he has already done better than he expected and now looks forward to Super Tuesday on March 3, in which Massachusetts also will vote, according to communications director Joe Hunter.
“It's somewhat understandable that he was elected. He seemed entertaining, he was politically incorrect and we like politically incorrect,” Weld said at an Exeter Town Hall meeting in New Hampshire on Sunday.
“But it's gone way too far now,” Weld said. “I think our duty is pretty clear. We have to go back to the country that we were. A country that was the beacon of the world.”
While the spotlight remains on Democrats to challenge Trump in November, he believes that his win could do more damage.
“You're better off weakening the president early on than later on,” Weld said.
Several of the 14 states voting on Super Tuesday will conduct open primaries, where voters are not required to be affiliated with a political party.
Weld is looking to replicate his 1994 reelection win in Massachusetts where he won 71 percent of the vote. He claimed that win came because many independents overwhelmingly supported him.
Terrie Harman, a practicing lawyer in Exeter, seemed to add evidence to his theory.
“I was a Democrat for a very long time. But I realized some months ago that Trump had to go,” she said.
“In order to vote in the New Hampshire primary, I could not be a Democrat,” she said. “So I changed my voter registration to independent and undeclared to specifically vote against Trump, and will now vote for Weld.”
As she thought about the impeachment trial, her voice broke. “The impeachment was so important.”
“We need a leader who can bring us, as a country, into a middle area where we are not very far-right nor far-left,” she said.
But significant numbers of independents on ground believed that Trump was a better candidate.
“Weld doesn’t stand a chance because he keeps changing parties,” said John Egan, 56, a resident of Winchendon, Massachusetts.
Weld, who had left the Republican Party in 2016 to join the Libertarian Party, came back into the GOP fold in 2019 and announced his intention to run for president last April. Egan thought that that was his fatal flaw.
A construction worker by profession, Egan had driven into New Hampshire to attend Trump’s rally and had used the days before it to hear what other presidential candidates, including the Democrats, had to say.
“I almost went to Weld’s rally but I think I went to Bernie’s instead,” he said.
Meanwhile, Donald Wilkinson, 50, a resident of Quincy, Massachusetts, had also traveled from Portsmouth for Trump’s rally.
Wearing a hat that said “Trump 2020,” Wilkinson said that Weld lacked the “fire” of Trump and felt that the failure of the Mueller Report and impeachment trial had only proven that the president was doing a good job.
“Is Weld still in the race?” Wilkinson wondered.
As independents around the state struggled to recognize Weld as the president’s competition, many state Republican national parties have already decided to upend the playing field.
In 2019, Kansas, Alaska, South Carolina, Nevada and Arizona announced that they would cancel their Republican caucuses/primaries.
A statement by South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissic said Trump didn’t have a primary challenger in the party and would save over $1.2 million in taxpayer money.
But Weld, who sets himself apart from the president by promising to undo the withdrawal from international agreements such as the Paris climate accords and Iran nuclear deal, expects the doubts and the skepticism.
“Believe me when I tell you, I started below asterisk,” he said about the time he was running for governor in Massachusetts.
“So when people say, ‘Kid, what are you doing here? You're not even ahead.’ I say, ‘Throw me in that patch. That's the kind of briar patch I love to be in.”
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