Like another former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, presidential candidate Bill Weld says he decided that some Republican needed to stand up to President Donald Trump — so he’s giving GOP voters an alternative to him on the primary ballot.
“I felt it not only a political but a moral duty for someone to call him out, to plant that flag,” Weld told The Salt Lake Tribune during a campaign stop in Utah on Friday. “My enthusiasm for the task has never flagged because I think it's very important.”
But the former two-term Massachusetts governor says he fully realizes that he’s the longest of long shots. He won one delegate in the Iowa caucuses against Trump and won 9% of the vote in the New Hampshire primary.
But he says when he first ran for governor in liberal Massachusetts, no Republican had been elected governor there in 20 years “and nobody knew who I was. I was a sub-asterisk. But that worked out well. When I was reelected, I won 70% of the vote.”
Four consecutive Republicans then followed him as governor. The fourth was Romney, now a senator from Utah — and the only GOP senator to vote to impeach Trump.
“I’ve seen a lot of him over the years,” Weld said. “I was never more proud of him than … when he voted to remove the president, which I thought was a vote richly warranted and even commanded by the evidence.”
Weld has little good to say about Trump.
“I think he’s an unhappy individual, not comfortable in his own skin,” Weld said. “He is fighting demons and anger that are coursing inside his head. In some ways, I feel sorry for the guy.”
Weld said a big difference between Trump and him is how they treat minorities, and people from poor nations in Asia and Africa — where he said he spent plenty of time in the years since he was governor doing humanitarian work.
“I do think that his striking out after groups and even individuals based on ethnicity or religion is just not the American way. And it’s not helpful to us domestically or internationally,” he said.
“We’ve always been a melting pot. I sometimes think of the Olympics. Ethiopians look like the Ethiopians. The Italians look like the Italians. And the Americans look like everybody. I’m proud of that.”
Weld toured the Humanitarian Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Friday, and said videos about its work in global areas in need brought back powerful memories of his own work, and the need to spread kindness.
“It really sang to me. It made a powerful impression on me,” he said. It made him pull out paper to write down and remember humanitarian groups he has worked with to think about doing more for them again.
“If things don’t work out politically, I might go on the humanitarian relief side as one possibility.” He added, “You could spend an infinite amount of blood, treasure, resources in an effort trying to get people who don’t live like us, to live like us — or you could be nice.”
Weld says if he does not win the GOP nomination, which is more than likely, he still “would never endorse the president.”
Would he consider endorsing a centrist Democrat? “In a heartbeat,” he said. Would he endorse a more left-leaning Democrat such as Bernie Sanders? “My first reaction is I would endorse the Libertarian, but I would need to see what is going on.”
Weld, 74, was the nominee for vice president of the Libertarian Party in 2016, when the campaign of its presidential nominee Gary Johnson was based in Salt Lake City. Because of that, Weld said he then spent plenty of time in Utah.
“I’m very impressed with the straight-thinking and just overall tough and clean approach to life that I identify with Utahns,” he said.
Weld said he is not just running to stop Trump, he is pushing to reduce the national deficit, fight global warming and to stop nuclear proliferation — all areas where he says Trump falls short.
Weld said he is “choosing his punches” in a low-budget campaign, and hopes for decent Super Tuesday showings in Utah, Vermont and his home state of Massachusetts. A third of all national delegates will be chosen in that March 3 primary in 14 states.
He said he plans to return to Utah next week for more campaign activities. Other lesser known Republicans also on the Utah primary ballot include Robert Ardini, Matthew John Mattern, Bob Ely, Rocky de la Fuente and Joe Walsh.
Numerous Democratic presidential candidates have flocked to Utah this week before the upcoming primary, including Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg and Tulsi Gabbard. Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden visited earlier in the cycle.