Bill Weld Challenges Trump For GOP Nomination: Can He Do Any Damage?
Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld has officially announced he’ll challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president in 2020. The announcement was long expected, with Weld suggesting he could jump into the race for some time.
Weld ran on the Libertarian Party presidential ticket in 2016, alongside former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Unlike Johnson, Weld is not as well-known nationally nor does he enjoy Johnson’s cult following among libertarian-leaning voters.
“I really think if we have six more years of the same stuff we’ve had out of the White House the last two years that would be a political tragedy,” Weld said, taking at swipe at the President.
“So I would be ashamed of myself if I didn’t raise my hand and run.”
Weld is facing an uphill battle. Polls show some 89% of Republicans approve of Trump and no primary challenger has successfully replaced a sitting president on their party’s ticket in modern times. However, if Weld can mount anything like a serious challenge, it could be an unwelcome distraction for Trump and the GOP.
No sitting president who’s faced a primary challenge has been re-elected in modern times. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush fended off a campaign by conservative commentator Pat Buchanan. Though Bush won the nomination by a wide margin, Buchanan could not be forced out of the race and Bush lost the general election in November.
Similarly, President Gerald Ford successfully fought a challenge from Ronald Reagan in 1976, a contest which bitterly divided the Republican Party. Ford went on to lose the election, while Reagan would soon become his party’s standard bearer.
It’s likely the Republican Party will do its best to keep Weld off the ballot and close ranks around a president who’s very popular with the grassroots, but a primary challenge has been historically damaging to presidents seeking second terms, especially one who’s unpopular with the general population.