Our opinion: Long-shot Weld fights the good fight

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William Weld, the popular former governor of Massachusetts, has had a remarkably varied career reflecting his diverse skills and his restless nature. His current mission, as he sees it, is to lead his Republican Party out of the wilderness it has become lost in since Donald Trump was elected president.

Mr. Weld is the only challenger to President Trump for the Republican nomination. He is the longest of shots, as the president is popular in the party and the Republican Party officials who once criticized him now line up behind him, declining or fearing to challenge his actions and pronouncements, no matter how divisive, destructive or unlawful.

But Mr. Weld, who ran a hard-fought but unsuccessful campaign against U.S. Sen. John Kerry while serving as governor and who was the Libertarian Party's candidate for vice president four years ago, has never been afraid to go off on his own to tilt at windmills. In truth, he appears to enjoy it.

At an editorial board meeting at The Berkshire Eagle on Wednesday, Mr. Weld outlined a campaign strategy in which he will appeal to old-school Republicans appalled by a record deficit and an irresponsible foreign policy, Democrats who take the threat of climate change as seriously as he does, and millennials worried about the nation their elders in Washington will leave them.

He won 9 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary, which exceeded the predictions of the pundits but Mr. Weld regarded as a disappointment. If he is going to attract the notice of the national media and perhaps earn an insulting nickname from the president, he is going to have to make some noise on Super Tuesday, March 3, when Massachusetts, Vermont and 12 other states conduct their primaries.

"I would like to pop one of those states with a clear victory," said Mr. Weld on Wednesday, citing Vermont, Massachusetts and Utah as the states he has the best chances to win. Mr. Weld has been endorsed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont, but not by Massachusetts' Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who served in Gov. Weld's administration. Mr. Weld told The Eagle that his longtime colleague may be constrained by the concern that the president, who has amply demonstrated his vindictive nature, may attempt to punish Massachusetts in some way if Mr. Baker endorses his rival.

Mr. Weld may find fertile ground in Utah, where Sen. Mitt Romney, like Mr. Weld a former Republican governor of Massachusetts, infuriated the president by showing

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independence and voting to remove him from office following the Senate impeachment trial. He will also campaign in the 24 states that allow crossover voting, courting Democrats and independents in the knowledge that Republican state committees allied with Trump forces, which is the case in Massachusetts, will keep Republican voters in line.

Beyond the threat the president poses to the long-term health of his party, Mr. Weld said he sees the president as an "authentic threat to our democratic institutions." In the wake of four Justice Department officials resigning because of Attorney General William Barr's political interference, Gov. Weld reminded The Eagle that he resigned as U.S. assistant attorney general for the criminal division in 1988 because of political interference by Edward Meese, the attorney general for Republican President Ronald Reagan. Mr. Weld cares about the welfare of American institutions under assault in ways that Richard Nixon and Mr. Reagan did not approach.

Noting that "Washington needs a makeover," Mr. Weld urged a lessening of the anger poisoning Washington and the nation and a return to the kind of bipartisanship that enabled him to work with a Democratic Legislature on such important successes as education reform.

If elected president, he promises to have a bipartisan Cabinet. But Mr. Weld is realistic about his chances of winning the White House.

Should Mr. Trump be reelected, the former governor acknowledged that the Republican Party would be lockstep behind a president who will see himself as answerable to no one. Beyond fear of criticism or of losing their seat to a Republican primary challenger, Mr. Weld said he is perplexed by the capitulation of so many elected Republican officials he has long known.

"This is something we have never seen before," he said of the political situation in the nation.

Should Mr. Trump be defeated, Mr. Weld hopes he will have some "moral suasion" in rebuilding the Republican Party and restoring a working relationship in Washington that will move the nation forward. How Mr. Weld does with voters on Super Tuesday will have a considerable impact on not only the extent of his challenge to Mr. Trump this fall, but to his future in a Republican Party that he wants to see regain its integrity and its adherence to its traditional principles. For these reasons, Gov. Weld's challenge is a necessary and important one for his party and his country.


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