Bill Weld

Bill Weld May Run for President as a Republican, Boston Media Speculates

Despite Weld's 14 months of party-building as a Libertarian, the local media and some of his allies are talking up a GOP primary challenge to Donald Trump

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||| Matt Welch
Matt Welch

Eleven days ago, 2016 Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee Bill Weld told me that "It helps the Libertarian Party to have three or four strong candidates" running for president in 2020, and that "I am very interested….I am going to be involved in 2020."

Weld, who has spent the past year or so laying the groundwork for a run at the L.P. nomination, has stated repeatedly since November 2016 that he plans to stay in America's third party. "The Libertarians have a very clear path in Washington, and I intend to participate in that," he told me on Election Day. "I'm going to stay L.P." he reiterated one year later.

All of which makes the past week of Boston media coverage that much more eyebrow-raising. On January 23, Boston Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld wrote that Weld "is heading to New Hampshire soon and don't count him out of the 2020 mix—either as a Libertarian or a Republican." While Weld didn't comment, "sources close to him say he'd relish a chance to take on Donald Trump."

The New York Times on January 26, citing "people who have spoken with him," reported that Weld "is weighing a challenge to Mr. Trump as a small-government moderate," and "has discussed either opposing Mr. Trump in the Republican primaries or seeking the Libertarian presidential nomination."

Then last night WCVB, citing "sources," reported that Weld "could make an announcement about a possible presidential run as soon as Thursday," that "he has taken a leave of absence from his law firm," and that "any possible run would be made as a Republican."

I contacted Weld last night for comment about the WCVB report, and he emailed "Whatever this is, is not from me." He also emailed Boston Globe reporter Michael Levenson to say that he's not leaving his firm, and not announcing anything Thursday: "No, not correct, either item."

Now Levenson's out with his own article under the headline, "Weld ponders a presidential campaign, but will it be as a Libertarian or a Republican?" While the former two-term Republican governor of Massachusetts "is declining to detail his thinking for now," Levenson did get some on-the-record quotes from Weld's Republican friends about why he might go GOP:

"If the goal is defeating Trump, the best option is for him to run as a Republican because primary challenges have historically weakened sitting presidents," said Rob Gray, Weld's former press secretary and a longtime Republican strategist. "Primary challenges get more media coverage and have more political juice so it puts an incumbent in the position of fighting a two-front war, against candidates of a different party and against someone in their own party." […]

"Nobody is going to invite Trump to debate the Libertarian candidate in New Hampshire," Gray said. "Whereas, it is likely someone is going to invite the Republican primary candidate to debate him in New Hampshire. Trump can avoid it, but there's a political risk to that."

Levenson also quoted Tom Rath, "a former New Hampshire attorney general and elder statesman in the party…who has spoken to Weld about a potential campaign":

"He has to be taken seriously and this can't just be a whimsical thing, and he knows that….He has to be more than a protest vehicle to gain traction because this vote, to New Hampshire people, is one of their most important political possessions. They don't give it away in a trivial fashion."

I emailed Weld today about whether he'd rule out a GOP bid, and will update in this space if/when he responds. Given that he has had eight days to correct the by-now widespread reporting on a possible return to Republican politics, it seems likely that the publicity suits him just fine.

Libertarian Party members on the other hand, not so much.

"I would absolutely be upset if he went back to the Republicans—most, if not all, Libertarians would be," Massachusetts state Chair Jeff Lyons told the Globe. "He's definitely made a lot of comments up to a week and a half ago, saying 'I'm going to be involved with Libertarians in 2020.' I've observed him give that talk many times over the past year and a half, two years now."

If Weld indeed re-took the GOP plunge, that would likely be a three-strikes-and-you're-out situation for many Libertarians. As I wrote in May 2016, just before he squeaked into the veep slot on the second ballot (much to the bafflement of the national press), Weld double-crossed the L.P. in 2006 over the New York gubernatorial race (you can watch his response to those charges here). Then in the final days of the 2016 campaign, he infuriated party members with a series of unusual actions—telling "all those in the electorate who remain torn between two so-called major party candidates whom they cannot enthusiastically support," and particularly "those Republicans who feel that our President should exhibit commonly accepted standards of decency and discipline," to vote against the "unhinged" Donald Trump; disputing his own party's press release about the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton; and then going on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show to say "I'm here vouching for Mrs. Clinton."

Then again, the Boston media has gotten a bit too far over its skis about their homegrown Brahmin in the past. In early October 2016, for example, the Globe reported that Weld "said…that he plans to focus exclusively on blasting Donald Trump over the next five weeks, a strategic pivot aimed at denying Trump the White House and giving himself a key role in helping to rebuild the GOP," and also quoted unnamed Weld aides as criticizing presidential nominee Gary Johnson's "flubs on national television" and even investigating whether it would be possible to flip the ticket.

Weld disputed those characterizations in real time, saying that he never said "exclusively," that he'd keep criticizing Clinton (he did, but also vouched for her character), that he wouldn't be campaigning only in Republican states (true), and that he never looked into a ticket-flip, which was anyway not legally possible. And he has not taken anything like a key role in helping to rebuild the GOP.

For the moment, anyway.

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67 responses to “Bill Weld May Run for President as a Republican, Boston Media Speculates

  1. Alternative Headline: “Bill Weld Almost Certainly Will Not Win the Republican Nomination”

    Subhead: “Garbage Politician, Flunks Out of the LP and Is Expected to Fail Miserably in Former Party”

    1. People like him are just desperate to occupy public office instead of getting a real job.

      1. If he was desperate to occupy public office he wouldn’t be palling around with the LP.

    2. Except for gravitas. People are ready for an alternative to Trump.

    3. They should have a contest among the parties. Loser gets Bill Weld.

      1. I like that
        He is such a disgraceful progressive. What was Gary Johnson thinking?

    4. He is establishment politics. I don’t care what party he claims I will never vote for him.

  2. So, I guess that means Wild Bill couldn’t get a job working for Hillary.

  3. Bill Weld is a Democrats, so that makes sense he will run as a RINO.

    Trump is going to pummel all these presidential candidates.

    It will be cool to have 6 more years of crying over Trump being president.

    1. Even cooler than last November’s “Red Wave”?

      LOL

      1. Even cooler dude.

      2. “Even cooler than last November’s “Red Wave”?”

        Fake News. The Republicans only won the Senate, not both the Senate and the House.

    2. Trump was a Democrat too.

  4. “I would absolutely be upset if he went back to the Republicans?most, if not all, Libertarians would be,” Massachusetts state Chair Jeff Lyons told the Globe. “He’s definitely made a lot of comments up to a week and a half ago, saying ‘I’m going to be involved with Libertarians in 2020.’ I’ve observed him give that talk many times over the past year and a half, two years now.”

    Why cosmos so love Bill Weld, I will never understand.

    1. The Cosmos can act Libertarian without actually furthering the Libertarian cause.

      When the Cosmos endorsed Weld, they knew that Bill Weld would never be a threat to Lefty agendas like Libertarians are.

      These Cosmos think they’re fooling Libertarians and they’re not.

      Just means that more Libertarians need to go to LP events and push out the LINOs, Lefties, and Anarchists.

  5. Losing in the primary is kind of pointless, don’t you think? That thing you did last time that was so disastrous because it helped put Trump in office? He’s in office this time, so now it’s a splendid idea.

    1. SPOILER: Weld would have certainly lost in the GOP primary last time around too. And if the LP actually costs Democrats elections then Democrats wouldn’t be sending out mailers for people to vote for them (see Utah’s senate race and Indiana’s senate race)

      1. The logic of my post was a bit off. I just want the insurance of a spoiler candidate who’d take Republican votes. I say insurance because Trump would be lucky even to make it to the primary, and he won’t be winning the election.

        1. Any day now, Muller will hand in his report and Her Highness will be restored to her proper place!

          /channeling my inner OBL

        2. Tony, should Trump prevail in 2020, you should probably just kill yourself.

          Or maybe just do it now.

      2. Well last time he would have lost for sure. Now people know how bad Trump is, and hardly anyone dares challenge him.

  6. Leslie Nielsen without the gravitas.

    1. *snort

    2. Until Airplane!, Leslie Neilsen was known for playing rather stoic, no nonsense characters. That was the joke in casting him and Peter Graves in that absurd comedy. his career after that was playing parodies of that character type. So, yeah.

      1. A metaphor that adapts over time, truly.

  7. I’m kinda hoping Weld runs as a Republican. That way he can’t run as a Libertarian.

    1. That’s why this is good news.

      1. Indeed. More importantly, the debates with a Trump will be interesting, and potentially inspire Trump’s libertarian instincts, if any.

        1. Yea maybe he’ll start fighting the establishment and try to end illegal wars…

          Maybe he’ll push criminal justice reform…

          Maybe he’ll let states manage their own drug policies….

          …..wait a minute…..

    2. That’s why this is good news.

      1. Evidently the server hamsters agree!

    3. I’m kinda hoping Weld runs as a Republican. That way he can’t run as a Libertarian

      Do you live on some other planet? Gary Johnson, two time LP candidate for the presidency, is a GOP also-ran.

      The LP seems to have first pick at the GOP reject pile and guards that place jealously.

      In a year when the LP should have done amazingly, Bill Weld made sure that it fizzled.

      1. Yup. Weld was not an asset in 2016. Johnson/Weld ran a tepid campaign, even by LP standards, and did OK but should have done waaaaaaaay better IMHO.

      2. GJ didn’t help the cause with “But interestingly, of all the presidential candidates, I next side with Bernie Sanders at 73 percent,” he said.

        Weld’s own anti-gun views ruled him out:

        “At another point in the interview Weld characterized commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and standard-capacity magazines as potential weapons of mass destruction. Displaying a level of ignorance usually attendant to politicians carrying the endorsement of the Brady Campaign, Weld told the interviewer:

        “The five-shot rifle, that’s a standard military rifle. The problem is if you attach a clip to it so it can fire more shells and if you remove the pin so that it becomes an automatic weapon. And those are independent criminal offenses. That’s when they become essentially a weapon of mass destruction.

        “Weld went on to suggest to the interviewer that both handguns and AR-15s are a “problem,” stating, “The problem with handguns is probably even worse than the problem of the AR-15.”

        Weld also supported the “no due process, your name is on a secret watch list so you can’t buy a gun” nonsense.

  8. OT: Speaking of loser politicians, Stacey Abrams (Georgia Governor loser) is going to do the SOTU rebuttal.

    Trump should send out a copy of his SOTU to Pelosi and then do a completely different short speech.

    The Lefties would have practiced their talking points for the speech not done and fumble with the new Trump points.

    Be prepared for a whistling sound as Abrams talks. It made us Georgians laugh and laugh.

    1. ^ this^

    2. Loser = “Beto” O’Rourke.

      1. The losers are the right-wingers — the poorly educated, the disaffected, the superstitious, the backward, the economically inadequate, the socially inept, and the bigoted — who lost America’s culture war, reside in shambling and hopeless backwaters, and will live their entire lives as malcontents obeying the preferences of the tolerant, reasoning, accomplished, educated liberal-libertarian mainstream.

        I am content.

  9. I hope this ain’t true. Weld is the best chance the Libertarian Party has of getting attention during the primary season which is the only time anyone who has the interest in or skills at helping a campaign win is paying attention. From convention time on – it is all about the wholesale manipulation of our lizard brains via TV and GOTV for the sheep. And that’s not a game the LP can play.

    Biggest mistake the LP ever made imo was changing their conventions from odd years to even years. 1980’s or 1990’s I think. Don’t know why the decision was made but it essentially makes the LP as irrelevant as giving the competition a 50-yd headstart in a 100-yd sprint. And kills off the chance to develop a bench of down-ticket candidates because filing deadlines and such have mostly ended by then

    Weld has done a lot of good for the LP over the last couple years

    1. Basically the LP convention could be done around the time of the Iowa state fairs or such. So the party can actually plan ITS outreach stuff for the rollout, the candidate has time to pull staff together (even DeRps), steal some limelight with appearances when other campaigns/journalists are paying attention, have Town Halls during the primary debates, show how the LP agenda isn’t even discussed by the DeRps, peel off DeRps when they are intraparty fighting, recruit local candidates when filing deadlines still make that possible.

      You know – like an actual freaking political campaign. Rather than having some fat ass strip down to his tighty whities exactly when the DeRps have resolved all their differences, posted all their candidates, and are raising the billions of dollars to move it all wholesale/mass.

      1. JFree, I honestly don’t know, has Bill Weld actually been instrumental in developing a LP talent pool in running for office?

        1. idk – but that’s not what the LP actually needs at this stage. imo – it needs operational capability. Political parties are like field of dreams. Build the party itself and the candidates will come in droves enough so that the party can easily screen them to select the best. Candidates is the easy part since politics/life is full of people who have their speeches prepared and are just looking for mics, amps, and spotlights already set-up. Building the organization itself is the boring thankless part. Everyone can be the rock star. The LP needs the road crew.

          What he has done – like Johnson before – is provided access to LP activists to someone who has won campaigns before at a serious level. Who knows what winning campaigns look like – what they need organizationally – at a time when building an organization CAN occur. Whether LP activists have really learned from that skillset and are building on that – or whether they are obsessed over how pure his thoughts are as commenters here are – well idk.

      2. There are ballot access laws and restrictions that made that necessary.

        1. Is that why the conventions were changed then Caryn?

      3. yup. You have good ideas.

  10. There are ballot access laws and restrictions that made that necessary.

  11. I’m most interested in which Democrat candidate he endorses for president while he’s running as a Republican.

    1. Whichever one is available, I’d imagine.

  12. Good riddance. I’m all for the LP trying to put someone “electable” on the ballot, but punt this milquetoast “I was always a libertarian in my heart” directly into the sun.

  13. Sorry, everyone knows LP candidates are unqualified loons, even when they are 2-term governors and at least one of their opponents is an actual loon.

    1. I dunno, if it’s between Weld and the fugitive whale-fucker, I’ll take another look at the whale-fucker.

      1. I’ll go even further – Weld is the reason many Libertarians support the whale-fucking loons.

        Better a loony-tune than a sellout punk.

        1. Whale-fucker 20202!

          1. Holy crap thats weird. My presidental run year mistype is the zip code for Washington DC.

  14. He’d fit in better with Team Blue.

  15. Well, I’d be thrilled if he ran as a Republican against Trump. I DON’T want him as the Libertarian Party nominee. He isn’t an effective campaigner, doesn’t raise $$$, and truly isn’t much of a libertarian. I think Andrew napolitano would be the best LP candidate.

  16. Yeah, yeah. Next we will hear Hillary Clinton will run as a Republican, because she sure as hell can’t win as a Democrat!

  17. I will always leap at any opportunity to post the following in a erelevant comments sectin:

    Fuck Bill Weld.

  18. Weld is the reason I left the Libertarian Party.

  19. Poor Bill, he can’t hep it, the regulars in two parties can’t stand him.

  20. Weld is kind of like Lucy with the football .

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  23. This has the feeling of wishful thinking on the part of the writer. He’s hoping to make this happen because it might just succeed in derailing Trump and (of course [sarcasm]) fail to elect Weld as well, thus electing a Democrat. I doubt it would work as planned and I doubt that Weld would run as a Republican too.

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