Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld said Friday that he was launching a presidential exploratory committee, making him the first Republican to take steps to challenge U.S. President Donald Trump for the party’s nomination in 2020.
Trump’s popularity among Republicans remains high in his third year in office. While he is not expected to face significant hurdles in his bid for a second nomination, it is rare for an incumbent president to face a notable primary challenge, with the last being George H.W. Bush.
Weld, 73, is not well-known nationally but is well-respected among officials in the GOP establishment.
He was first elected governor of Massachusetts in 1990, defeating a conservative Democratic candidate. Weld became one of the state’s more popular governors, being elected twice by comfortable margins.
While in office, he followed traditional Republican fiscal policies of trying to keep taxes and government spending low, but embraced liberal positions on abortion and gay rights.
Nation in ‘grave peril’
In announcing his presidential aspirations Friday in Bedford, N.H., Weld said the country was in “grave peril” and described Trump as a “schoolyard bully.”
“I encourage those of you who are watching the current administration nervously, but saying nothing, to stand up and speak out when lines are crossed in dangerous ways,” Weld said.
Weld said Trump was “a president whose priorities are skewed to the promotion of himself rather than toward the good of the country.”
Asked to comment on Weld’s campaign, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded: “Who?”
Weld tried to win a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts in 1996 but lost to John Kerry. He later moved to New York and unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2005.
In 2016, Weld joined the Libertarian Party, serving as running mate to the party’s 2016 candidate, Gary Johnson. The duo received about 4.5 million votes, or a little more than 3 percent of the national popular vote. Weld returned to the Republican Party this year, saying it was the best place from which to challenge Trump.
Several other Republicans are also reportedly considering challenging Trump in the primaries, including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. More than a dozen Democrats have already announced their intentions to run in the Democratic primaries or are reported to be considering candidacies.