Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld said he’s running for president because President Donald Trump is a Republican in name only.
About 75 people gathered to hear Weld speak for 20 minutes at the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox, at the Iowa State Fair this weekend, where he was the sole Republican presidential candidate speaking among more than a dozen Democrats.
Weld said the Republican Party is doomed unless it disavows the racism of Donald Trump.
“Obviously they’re not going to be able to take my candidacy seriously unless I’m here and I meet them,” he said. “So we’re going to do what’s necessary to be a plausible contender in the caucus.”
“I’m not running because I think I’m the only person who can make a difference,” he said from the stage. “I’m running because I’m troubled by the situation in our country, and I think we’re at something of an inflection point. I think the most urgent duty facing the next president is to seek to unify the country as opposed to dividing it.”
“I kind of think it’s Mr. Trump who’s the RINO — the Republican in Name Only,” he said.
“Because he’s not a fiscal conservative,” Weld said. “He doesn’t believe in conserving the environment. He doesn’t believe in free trade. He doesn’t believe in all the things that the real Republican Party used to stand for, so I’m unapologetic about challenging him here because I don’t think he’s a real Republican.”
“If the Republican Party in Washington doesn’t expressly disavow his racist tirades, they are going to go down to massive defeat in 2020,” he said.
Weld says he’d take the same approach to cutting the federal budget that he took as Massachusetts governor in the ‘90s: “zero-based budgeting,” in which all spending must be justified each year. He said he regularly cut the budget in Massachusetts, and has watched deficit spending continue during the Trump administration.
Weld, 74, said he is used to running as an underdog, having faced an uphill climb in winning his first of two elections as governor as Massachusetts.
Weld told the several dozen fairgoers who gathered in a light rain that the country is at what he called an “inflection point.”
“And I think the most urgent duty facing the next president is to seek to seek to unify the country as opposed to dividing it,” he said.
Weld faces long odds in his attempt to take the party nomination away from Trump. A recent Gallup poll suggested nearly nine out of 10 Republicans approve of the job Trump is doing.
A sitting president has only once been denied his party’s nomination in a bid for reelection: Democrat Franklin Pierce was elected in 1952, but the party chose to nominate James Garfield over him in 1856.
“If you can knock off a sitting president in the New Hampshire primary, that president is wounded, to put it mildly, and who knows where it goes from there. There’s a momentum factor there, and I do think that’s doable,” Weld said.
Weld in 2016 was Gary Johnson’s running mate on the Libertarian Party ticket and noted “I’m not a stranger to the general precincts” in Iowa. He said he hopes to do well in six New England states, California, Oregon and Washington, as well as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and his native New York before challenging Trump in key Rust Belt contests.
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