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Bill Weld Announces Primary Against “Unstable” Trump and the “Stockholm Syndrome” GOP

Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld told a politically-savvy New Hampshire audience that he is forming an exploratory committee to challenge President Trump in the 2020 GOP primary to rescue the party from “Stockholm Syndrome.”

“Our President is simply too unstable to carry out the duties of the highest executive office,” Weld told the Politics and Eggs breakfast in Bedford, NH—a must-stop on the presidential campaign trail through the Granite State. “They say the President has captured the Republican party in Washington. As the president might say: ‘Sad.’ But even sadder is that many Republicans exhibit all the symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome, identifying with their captor.”

For Weld, who last held elected office in 1997, riding to the rescue of the GOP is an unexpected role.  His most recent foray into American politics was as the Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice president, and he has long been at odds with the party’s conservative base.  In fact, Weld often notes that the Gary Johnson/Bill Weld ticket in 2016 took votes by a three-to-one margin from otherwise GOP voters. “A Libertarian vote was a protest vote or change vote in 2016. Those votes were going to go to Donald J. Trump not Hillary Clinton,” Weld said.

But Weld has returned to the GOP  because, he argues, Trump has put the country “in grave peril.”

Weld began his remarks to the crowd of New England business people and political insiders with a withering critique of President Trump, calling him a “schoolyard bully” who “virtually spat upon the idea that we should have freedom of the press,” and who “goes out of his way to insult and even humiliate ore democratic allies.”

“The situation is not yet hopeless,” Weld said, “but we do need a mid-course correction. We need to install leaders who know that character counts.

“As we move towards 2020 election we must uphold difference between the open heart, open mind and open handedness of patriotism versus the hard heart, closed mind and clenched fist of nativism and nationalism,” Weld said.

Weld laid out a series of his own policy proposals that were commonly heard in GOP circles in the 1990s but are rarely advocated today: a 19 percent flat income tax, baseline budgeting for the federal government and individual retirement accounts for “millennials who may never receive the benefits of Social Security.”  But it wasn’t Weld’s policy proposals that generated the massive media attention his speech received. It was the premise of a primary challenge against President Trump.

Weld repeatedly suggested that other candidates might enter the 2020 race, both as third-party candidates and as Republicans, which he clearly saw as a positive development.  When asked if his entrance into the GOP primary “would make the dam break,” Weld answered “If I get traction and cracks begin to appear, you may see a gold rush.”

This possibility—that Weld’s candidacy will open the door to a more traditional Republican challenger– may pose Weld’s most significant danger to Trump.  Trump’s poll numbers, both nationally and in key early primary states like New Hampshire, have actually risen in recent months.  Emerson College’s Director of Polling Spencer Kimball tells InsideSources that “We were just in the field in Iowa testing Trump vs. [Ohio Gov. John] Kasich and Trump was up 90-10 percent. It’s not going to be any easier there for Bill Weld.”

And in New Hampshire, which border’s Weld’s home state of Massachusetts, Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is 82 percent, and his approval among all Granite State voters has risen from 36 percent a year ago to 43 percent today in the latest NHIOP poll. When asked if they would encourage Trump to run for re-election in 2020, 77 percent of New Hampshire Republicans said yes.

Which may explain why multiple Republican strategists told InsideSources that they see little if any path forward for Weld in the Republican primary (“He misses on some of the attributes I think are needed to run a successful national effort,” New Hampshire-based GOP consultant Dave Carney tells InsideSources.)

Pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson of Echelon Insights says “Bill Weld is fighting an uphill battle on two fronts. First is that President Trump remains quite popular within the party, and rank-and-file Republican voters do not want to see a primary battle that could impair President Trump in a general election against a Democrat.

“Second is that Weld’s particular brand of Republicanism is now very rare in the party. Lots of voters in America are socially and fiscally progressive or are socially and fiscally conservative. But among those who ‘mix it up’ a bit, you find more people who are fiscally progressive but socially conservative – the opposite of a sort of ‘New England Republican’ formula.”

And even if the GOP base were in the mood to make a change, it’s hard to imagine the Republican Party of 2020 embracing Weld, with his history of pro-abortion and pro-amnesty policies, and his support for liberal politicians like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

“The Republican Party is a big tent, but someone who endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 as the Libertarian Party’s Vice Presidential nominee really needs to think about how welcome he is in the Republican Party,” said Steve Stepanek, chairman of the New Hampshire GOP.

“I don’t expect his campaign to get very far among Republican primary voters.”

Weld announced that he plans to stump across New Hampshire and other states in coming weeks, but emphasized that he has not made a final decision to run.

“If people won’t buy dog food, then I won’t advance,” Weld conceded. “That’s how it is in showbiz. If the dogs won’t eat the dog food, it doesn’t matter how good the promoter is.”

Is Kamala Harris the Hillary Clinton of the 2020 Campaign?

Despite the fact that she’s repeatedly referred to as “the female Obama,”  and that she formally announced her candidacy on Martin Luther King Day, could it be that the most apt description of Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris in the 2020 POTUS race is… Hillary Rodham Clinton?

The comparison comes from the fact that the 54-year-old former California Attorney General appears to be running on a Clinton-esque combination of identity politics and moderate Democratic policy.

“The way Harris is likely to position herself on policy issues during the campaign — liberal as any candidate on noneconomic issues but not as liberal on economic issues as, say, Bernie Sanders — echoes Hillary Clinton’s platform in 2016,” writes Perry Bacon, Jr. at the FiveThirtyEight website.   At the same time, Sen. Harris’s embrace of identity politics is unabashed and beyond dispute.

Harris talks extensively about her biography– she would be the first woman, the first black woman and first person of Asian descent to serve as POTUS–and she openly defends identity politics as part of Democratic Party ideology, suggesting the phrase itself is a divisive slur.  And like Hillary Clinton, Sen. Harris highlights what she claims will be the unique challenges of attempting to break the glass ceiling as a woman of color running for the White House.

“Let’s be honest. It’s going to be ugly,” Harris told MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski in December. “When you break things, it is painful. And you get cut. And you bleed.”

But will the Democratic POTUS primary really be a “bloody” battle for the four women (Gabbard, Gillibrand, Harris and Warren) already in the race? According to a Suffolk poll in September, while most voters still claim to be gender-neutral at the ballot box, the percentage of voters who would prefer to vote for a woman is twice as high as the number who would prefer a male candidate. That sentiment is highest among the most liberal voters–more than a third of whom say they want to vote for a woman. Those voters will have a disproportionate impact on the primary.

Add in the historical pattern of black voters strongly supporting black candidates, and it’s no surprise that many political prognosticators have labeled Harris the Democrats’ front-runner.

So playing the identity card as hard as Hillary #ImWithHer Clinton did in 2016 looks like a winner. But what about the Clinton centrism?

Admittedly the word “centrist” is problematic. To most Republicans, and probably many more Americans, the idea that Hillary Clinton was a centrist or moderate candidate seems counter-intuitive. And not long ago, it would have been. But for Democratic primary voters–particularly in the age of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez politics–Mrs. Clinton is a relative moderate. Is Kamala Harris, too?

“I don’t know any progressives who would support her, largely due to her record as district attorney and attorney general in California,” longtime progressive activist Ted Bosen of New Hampshire told Inside Sources.  “Next to Biden, I believe she is the least favorite prospect among us. But she has support among Hillary Clinton supporters.”

And a recent Vanity Fair profile of Sen. Harris included this nugget: “Have you seen her speak?” a (male) Democratic strategist says of Harris. “It feels very Hillary-like.”

As the liberal journal Jacobin reports: “Harris’s rise has produced a fiery debate among liberals and the Left. Leftists and progressives have come out in strong opposition to Harris’s candidacy, with some declaring #NeverKamala and some high-profile Bernie Sanders supporters, such as National Nurses United executive director RoseAnn DeMoro, making clear their lack of enthusiasm for her candidacy.”

“I expect Harris to struggle with The Left,” Bacon writes in his analysis for FiveThirtyEight. “Harris’ professional life has been as a prosecutor and some on the left already are highlighting what they view as flaws in her record — being too hard on low-level offenders of crimes like truancy but not aggressive enough in taking on those accused of white-collar offenses, for example.”

In a press conference on Monday, Harris said she rejected the notion “that you either have to be tough on crime or soft on crime. We should be smart on crime.” However, some critics suggest she tried to burnish her “not-soft-on-crime” credentials by defending police and prosecutors in cases when they didn’t deserve it.   She also bragged in the past about increasing her conviction rates and sending more people to prison, while also promoting liberal social issues like same-sex marriage popular on the California Left. This style of “third-way” politics is straight from the Clinton playbook.

Not everyone agrees with the Clinton/Kamala comparison.

“Their profiles as candidates couldn’t more different,” DC Democratic consultant Joel Payne told InsideSources. “Sen. Harris is a fresh face with relatively low name ID and a lot of room to define herself to voters. Hillary Clinton had been a household name for 15 years before her runs for the White House.”

Payne, who advised the 2016 Clinton campaign says the Democrats he talks to “believe that black voters and, in particular, black women are the key voting bloc in 2020 and Kamala Harris is very well positioned to appeal to those voters.”

But the comparisons are likely to continue, in part because of the campaign team Harris has assembled. Her campaign chair is her sister–and former Clinton senior advisor– Maya Harris. Her general counsel is Hillary’s former campaign attorney Marc Elias, who made headlines when it was discovered his firm was the funnel for Clinton’s campaign to pay oppo-research outfit Fusion GPS, at the center of the “Russia dossier” story.

Other top Kamala Harris staffers include Hillary’s deputy national finance director Angelique Cannon; and David Huynh, the Clinton campaign’s director of delegate operations and ballot access whose job at the Democratic convention in 2016 was to keep protesting Bernie Sanders’ supporters off TV.

Nobody is going to mistake Kamala Harris for Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. By historical standards, she’s one of the most liberal candidates to ever seek the presidency, as her announcement statement makes clear.  But in the #NeedToImpeach/#Medicare4All world of Democratic primary voters of today, virtually every candidate is (at least) as progressive as Harris, and without the “third-way” politics baggage or a staff straight off Hillary Clinton’s campaign bus.

It’s very possible that Kamala Harris’s identity politics can overcome the perception that she’s not progressive enough. But with so many strong progressive candidates in the field, maybe not.