Joe Walsh, a conservative who served in Congress for one term, announced Sunday he’s running in the 2020 primary race against Donald Trump. ‘I’m going to run for president,’ Walsh told ABC News Sunday morning. ‘I’m running because he’s unfit. Somebody needs to step up and there needs to be an alternative. The country is sick of this guy’s tantrum – he’s a child,’ Walsh said when outlining why he decided to take on the incumbent president.
Walsh was elected to the House of Representatives in Illinois’ 8th district as part of a Tea Party wave in 2011. He served in Congress for one term and is now a talk radio host in Chicago. Trump is already facing a primary challenge from former Massachusetss Senator Bill Weld and other presidential critics – including John Kasich and Jeff Flake – have made mutterings about the 2020 race as an anti-Trump movement inside the GOP struggles to gain traction.
Weld’s campaign has barely made a blip on the political radar – and Walsh’s will likely follow suit. ‘We’ve never had a situation like this,’ he told ABC. ‘You can’t believe a word he says … he’s nuts, he’s erratic, he’s cruel, he stokes bigotry.’
The fiery radio host slammed Trump as a ‘horrible human being’ that he claimed he would ‘punch’ every single day during the campaign. ‘He’s a horrible human being,’ Walsh told CNN Thursday morning. ‘He’s a bad, bad guy. And every single day you, I, and everybody watching us right now is reminded of how damn unfit he is.’
Before becoming a Trump critic, however, Walsh was a fervent supporter of the president. ‘I helped create Trump,’ Walsh told ABC host George Stephanopoulos, ‘and George, that’s not an easy thing to say.’
In December 2015, Walsh said if Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential election, he would run for office in 2020 to unseat her. Walsh said officially turned against the president in 2018 after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Trump faced backlash for the meeting after he seemed to support Russia’s assertion it didn’t interfere in the last presidential election over U.S. intelligence reports that it did.
When ABC asked Trump’s reelection campaign of Walsh’s announced, campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh issued a dismissive, ‘Whatever.’ Challenging Trump is an uphill battle and it’s unlikely any contender would pose a genuine threat to the president.
Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans sits at 88 percent, according to Gallup tracking , and it is politically difficult to oust an incumbent during a primary. And then there’s the money: Team Trump raised $105 million in April, May and June alone.
Murtaugh told DailyMail.com that any 2020 Republican challenger is ‘doomed.’ Walsh, 57, said as he began floating his candidacy that any Republican who entered the primary would have to fight fire with fire. He unveiled that his campaign slogan is ‘Be Brave.’
‘The only way you primary Donald Trump and beat him is to expose him for the con man he is,’ Walsh said last week. ‘That’s what I’d do. I’d punch him every single day.’ ‘We’ve never been in a situation where every single time a president opened his mouth, it was a lie. I don’t give a damn what your politics are. That’s got to be called out,’ he noted.
While in Congress he was a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement and made a name for himself among the right wing in the Republican Party. Walsh criticized his fellow Republicans for not calling out Trump when the situation warrants.
‘The Republican Party will always regret the fact that they did not call this man out. Somebody has to,’ he said. ‘There are bigger names than me. There are bigger former senators and members of Congress. But none of them have the courage to step up and challenge him,’ he said.
‘If somebody’s going to get in there and go after him, it’s got to be done soon. You’re running out of time,’ he told CNN. ‘Labor Day’s in a week. If you want to get in, you’ve got to get in within the next week or so.’
Walsh’s entry comes as Kasich, the former Ohio governor who also ran against Trump in the 2016 primary, plans a trip to New Hampshire next month. Kasich has made mutterings about challenging the president since the 2018 election but has yet to formally pull the trigger on a bid.
Flake, the former Arizona senator who was Trump’s bete noir in Congress, told The Washington Post he is receiving recruitment calls from Republican donors who want an alternative to the president.
‘They are wondering, if the economy isn’t stellar next year, how is the party going to win? By the president offending more people?’ he said. And while he said he is unlikely to mount a bid, he kept the door slightly open. Mark Sanford, a former GOP congressman who earned Trump’s wrath, has sounded out activists about a presidential campaign.
Sanford, who supported Trump’s 2016 campaign, later criticized the president’s immigration policies and encouraged Trump to release his tax returns. The president turned on him in the 2018 primary and Sanford lost to a GOP challenger.
He acknowledged any presidential challenge was highly unlikely to produce a victory but said it was a chance to make a political point. ‘If Trump gives you a nickname and has surrogates rough you up, you could get a message out and create a national conversation on what it means to be a Republican these days and that could probably be worth the endeavor,’ Sanford told The Post.
Walsh argues there is an anti-Trump brigade among Republicans. ‘I’ve been really surprised by the amount of anxiousness from people across the spectrum who want this president to have a challenge, because there’s just a real concern that he’s absolutely unfit,’ he told Politico.
He was confident he could secure enough funding to mount a credible presidential challenge. ‘Abso-freaking-lutely. There’s a drumbeat from a lot of people out there for somebody who wants to take this on,’ he said when asked if he could raise. ‘I think if there is an alternative out there,’ he noted, ‘the money will follow.’