Why you should care
Because 2020 just got more interesting.
Susan Del Percio
Susan Del Percio is a New York–based Republican strategist.
At first look, former congressman Joe Walsh — who recently announced a Republican primary challenge to “make the moral case” against President Donald Trump — is hardly a credible person to question anyone’s morals. He was suspended from his talk radio show for making racist slurs, promoted the “birther” conspiracy against President Barack Obama and even once tweeted: “I’m sick & tired of the Sandy Hook parents. They’re partisan & political. They can be attacked just like anyone else.”
But it might turn out that Walsh is exactly the person to make the case against Trump. In 2016 we saw Trump take down one successful politician after another. He never played by the rules; he was a wild card and he understood his target audience.
Who better to take the fight to Trump than a man who rode the Tea Party wave to one term in Congress, then became a conservative talk show host who understands the red meat issues on the right and has the media savvy to do it?
Walsh will command media attention by using ugly and inappropriate rhetoric against Trump.
This is not meant to suggest that the 57-year-old from Illinois would beat Trump in a primary. No amount of apologies will make up for the awful things he has said or tweeted. He does not have the experience or temperament of a president. I could go on and on.
But Walsh’s candidacy should not be viewed through the lens of winning a primary; it should be looked at as a way of defeating Trump in November 2020.
There’s history to consider: Ted Kennedy didn’t win the Democratic nomination in 1980, nor did Pat Buchanan in 1992, but their candidacies against sitting presidents exposed weaknesses that led to general election losses. And by challenging Trump from the right, Walsh belongs in that category far more than Trump’s other declared GOP primary foe, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who was on the Libertarian ticket in 2016 and has been a nonfactor so far this cycle.
Walsh will command media attention by using ugly and inappropriate rhetoric against Trump; in fact, Walsh said “I am going to pound him every day.” For starters, that’s meant calling the president “cruel,” “bigoted” and “a narcissist.”
This is sure to get under the president’s skin. To date, Trump has shown he has zero impulse control. Eventually he will blow his top and go after Walsh. (There’s a good chance he will have unleashed a tweet by the time you read this.) And once he starts, there will be no turning back.
Another interesting element of the Walsh candidacy is that he believes Trump is unfit for the presidency and will not vote for him in the general election, eliminating the “it’s better to vote for Trump than the Democrat” argument.
Walsh has repeatedly said that “the only way you primary Donald Trump and beat him is to expose him for the con man he is.” What if the best way to beat Trump in November is to expose Trump for the incompetent, unstable and reckless president he is?
Who better to do it than a former Republican member of Congress who says he has had enough? Maybe he’ll even get a little help from Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director, who has recently done an about-face and regularly lambastes Trump on TV. I’m sure he’ll be happy to run a super PAC for Walsh.
Should Walsh get just a little bit of traction with Republican primary voters, combined with a recession or other world events, it could erode Trump’s poll numbers to the point that it sparks a real “Draft Flake” or “Draft Kasich” campaign ahead of the GOP convention, as Republicans fear a November wipeout.
Then again, perhaps we’ll find out that Walsh is more like Trump than we think and is doing this just to reboot his own image in hopes of a media deal.