Last week, former congressman Joe Walsh wrote an op-ed in the New York Times saying President Trump should face a conservative challenger in the primary. Now, it appears, Walsh has found just the guy: himself. Both the Times and Politico report that Walsh, who calls Trump "absolutely unfit" for office, is poised to announce his candidacy as early as this weekend. Details and developments:
- Who's Walsh? He served one term in the House after being elected in Illinois as a Tea Party conservative in 2010. Walsh, who now hosts a radio show, initially supported Trump but now is a vocal critic.
- His chances: Pretty much non-existent, with a caveat. Walsh has "virtually no chance" of beating Trump, per the Times, and Politico agrees he has "little chance of posing a genuine threat." However, Walsh could expose Trump's weaknesses on the right, which could hurt the president in a general election.
- His rationale: Walsh calls Trump, among other things, a "racial arsonist," in his op-ed. And he tells the Times, referring to Trump's trip to Finland last year: “He lost me for good in Helsinki, when he stood in front of the world and said, ‘I believe Putin and I don’t believe my fellow Americans.'"
- His own rhetoric: Axios notes that Walsh has no shortage of controversial comments on his own record and rounds up examples, including a tweet from 2016 in which he wrote, "I think Obama is Muslim. I think in his head and in his heart he has always been." Walsh acknowledged as much in his op-ed, saying he regretted how he has "expressed hate" for his rivals. "We now see where this can lead."
- The problem: "Walsh's history of divisive rhetoric and previous support for Trump won't help distinguish him in the eyes of Never Trump Republicans who want to see the president ousted," writes Ursula Perano of Axios. "And even if it did, Trump continues to maintain a near-90% approval rating within the GOP."
- Trump's reaction: Nothing, yet. But campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh is succinct on Walsh's expected run: "Certain failure."
- Prominent backer: Bill Kristol of the now-defunct conservative magazine the Weekly Standard is behind Walsh's move and thinks he makes a "good David" in a David-and-Goliath way. At Breitbart, Joel Pollack see this as an "odd pairing" and also views Walsh's past rhetoric as a liability in regard to being a Trump alternative. "Yet to Kristol, and the Times, who have struggled to understand the conservative movement and Trump’s political base, he seems good enough."
- No. 2: The Hill notes that Walsh would join former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld as the only other Republican to officially declare a primary challenge to Trump. Walsh is to the right of Weld, however, notes T.LaDuke of Red State, who nevertheless sees Walsh's move as a "political suicide attempt or a vanity exercise."
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