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Bill Weld Launches Presidential Exploratory Committee in N.H.

Lauren Chooljian / NHPR

  President Donald Trump might have a Republican challenger in 2020.

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld was in New Hampshire to announce he has launched a presidential exploratory committee. He’s the first Republican to throw a hat at least close to the 2020 ring.


“I think our country is in grave peril, and I can’t sit any longer quietly on the sidelines,” Weld said Friday morning in Bedford.

But Weld comes with a unique political resume that’s already getting mixed reviews from New Hampshire Republicans he’d need if he wants to be successful in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

It’s hard to know how many, but there are Trump voters in New Hampshire and around the country who aren’t happy with the president. Like Russ Clancey of Manchester, who showed up at Saint Anselm’s Politics and Eggs breakfast, looking for an alternative.

“I believed what [Trump] was saying and then as soon as he got elected, Trump is basically one lie after another,” Clancey said.  

And it’s also hard to know how viable a challenge could really be from within the president's own party. Weld isn’t actually running yet, just officially exploring for now, because he thinks putting himself out there could start to answer some of these questions about Republican voters.

Weld came out swinging against Trump, by calling the president a bully who is unfit to lead the country.

“We have a president whose priorities are skewed toward promotion of himself rather than toward the good of the country,” Weld said.

Weld was a two-term Republican governor of Massachusetts in the 1990s, yet he’s gone on to back Democrats for president and, in 2016, he ran as the Libertarian Vice Presidential nominee next to Gary Johnson.

Now, he’s switching back to Republican, a strategy that is already getting mixed reviews.

Former NH GOP Vice Chair Matt Mayberry introduced himself as, “I’m a veteran, I’m gay, I’m pro choice and a lifelong Republican,” when he took the microphone to ask Weld a question.

“You’re my guy!” Weld said.

Not so much, it turns out. Mayberry wanted to know how Republicans could trust that Weld would govern as a Republican, given his diverse political history.

“Sorry for the tough question this morning, but it’s an important one,” Mayberry said.

Weld said he wants to do the best thing for the country, and “this is the most direct way for me to have an influence.” He told Mayberry he had strong Republican credentials, and running in the GOP primary would be his best shot at going toe to toe with Trump.

He also acknowledged his bid is a long shot, saying that candidates who challenge a seated president from within his own party don’t win.

But Weld also pointed out another fact he liked better: While the challenger may not win, a primary challenge can cause an incumbent to lose to the other party.

“That disturbs me,” Mayberry said. “One day of any Republican is better than any day of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.”

Of course, New Hampshire Trump supporters are disturbed by Weld’s announcement, too. Steve Stepanek, a former Trump campaign leader and now state party chair, said he doesn’t expect Weld’s campaign “to get very far among Republicans.”

Despite all this, Weld plans to be back in New Hampshire soon and he wondered if his announcement could encourage other Republicans to challenge Trump, too.

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