Ex-Rep. Walsh to Challenge Trump 08/25 10:17
Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman ad tea party favorite turned radio
talk show host, announced a longshot challenge Sunday to President Donald Trump
for the Republican nomination in 2020, saying the incumbent is "completely
unfit" for office and must be denied a second term.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman ad tea party
favorite turned radio talk show host, announced a longshot challenge Sunday to
President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020, saying the
incumbent is "completely unfit" for office and must be denied a second term.
"Somebody needs to step up and there needs to be an alternative" among
Republicans, Walsh told ABC's "This Week," adding that "the country is sick of
this guy's tantrum. He's a child. ... He lies every time he opens his mouth."
Already in the race is former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.
Walsh narrowly won a House seat from suburban Chicago in the 2010 tea party
wave but lost a 2012 reelection bid and has since hosted a radio talk show. He
has a history of inflammatory statements regarding Muslims and others and
declared just before the 2016 election that if Trump lost, "I'm grabbing my
But he has since soured on Trump, criticizing the president in a recent New
York Times column over growth of the federal deficit and calling him "a racial
arsonist who encourages bigotry and xenophobia to rouse his base."
Walsh promises to contest Trump from the right as opposed to Weld, who is
regarded as fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Weld was the 2016
Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee.
The road ahead for any Republican primary challenger will certainly be
In recent months, Trump's allies have taken over state parties that control
primary elections in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and elsewhere. State
party leaders sometimes pay lip service to the notion that they would welcome a
primary challenger, as their state party rules usually require, but they are
already working to ensure Trump's reelection.
South Carolina Republicans have gone so far as to discuss canceling their
state's GOP primary altogether if a legitimate primary challenge emerges to
eliminate the threat.
At the same time, polling consistently shows that Trump has the solid
backing of an overwhelming majority of Republican voters. An Associated
Press-NORC poll conducted this month found that 78% of Republicans approve of
Trump's job performance. That number has been hovering around 80% even as
repeated scandals have rocked his presidency.
"Look, this isn't easy to do. ... I'm opening up my life to tweets and
attacks. Everything I've said and tweeted now, Trump's going to go after, and
his bullies are going to go after," Walsh told ABC.
Asked whether he was prepared for that, Walsh replied: "Yes, I'm ready for
Walsh, 57, rode a wave of anti-President Barack Obama sentiment to a
300-vote victory over a Democratic incumbent in the 2010 election. He made a
name for himself in Washington as a cable news fixture who was highly
disparaging of Obama.
Walsh was criticized for saying that the Democratic Party's "game" is to
make Latinos dependent on government just like "they got African Americans
dependent upon government." At another point, he said radical Muslims are in
the U.S. "trying to kill Americans every week," including in Chicago's suburbs.
He lost his 2012 reelection bid by more than 20,000 votes to Democrat Tammy
Duckworth, who was elected to the U.S. Senate four years later.
Walsh told Obama to "watch out" on Twitter in July 2016 after five police
officers were killed in Dallas. Just days before Trump's 2016 win over Hillary
Clinton, Walsh tweeted: "On November 8th, I'm voting for Trump. On November
9th, if Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket. You in?" Walsh later said on
Twitter that he was referring to "acts of civil disobedience."
Walsh wrote in his New York Times column that "In Mr. Trump, I see the worst
and ugliest iteration of views I expressed for the better part of a decade."
"On more than one occasion, I questioned Mr. Obama's truthfulness about his
religion," Walsh wrote. "At times, I expressed hate for my political opponents.
We now see where this can lead. There's no place in our politics for personal
attacks like that, and I regret making them."
Walsh said his 2016 vote for Trump was actually against Clinton and faulted
Trump for his unwillingness to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"He encouraged Russian interference in the 2016 election, and he refuses to
take foreign threats seriously as we enter the 2020 election. That's reckless,"
Walsh wrote. "For three years, he has been at war with our federal law
enforcement and intelligence agencies, as he embraces tyrants abroad and
embarrasses our allies. That's un-American."