Joe Walsh, a former tea party member of Congress, announced Sunday he will challenge President Trump in the Republican presidential primaries, calling on other party members to “be brave” and say what he claims they all know — that the president is “nuts,” “erratic” and unfit for office.
“Friends, I’m in. We can’t take four more years of Donald Trump. And that’s why I’m running for president. It won’t be easy, but bravery is never easy. But together, we can do it,” the Illinois Republican posted.
He said his campaign slogan is “be brave,” acknowledging he will face criticism for mounting a challenge to the president. However, he said someone needed to stand up to Mr. Trump, accusing him of acting like a child throwing tantrums.
“I’m going to pound Trump every single day. He is a bully and he is a coward,” Mr. Walsh told ABC’s “This Week.” “He’s cruel. He stokes bigotry. He’s incompetent. He doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
Mr. Walsh is a conservative radio host who served as a member of Congress representing Illinois from 2011 to 2013 and was popular with the tea party movement.
He originally supported Mr. Trump, but withdrew his backing after Mr. Trump appeared with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki summit in 2018 and appeared to side with Mr. Putin over FBI intelligence that concluded Russia had attempted to interfere with the 2016 election.
“When the president of the United States stood in front of the world and said, ‘I stand with that guy instead of my own people,’ that’s disloyal,” Mr. Walsh said.
The Trump campaign had a one-word response Sunday to the Walsh challenge: “Whatever.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld is also running against the president for the 2020 GOP nomination, and he welcomed Mr. Walsh’s campaign launch during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“It can only contribute to more robust dialogue,” he said, adding that he also hoped that former Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina might join, a possibility he has publicly said he is considering.
“Who knows? The networks might even cover Republican primary debates,” Mr. Weld said.
Unlike Mr. Weld, a liberal-leaning Republican who ran in 2016 as the running mate on the Libertarian Party ticket, Mr. Walsh expects to run against Mr. Trump from the right, an angle of attack he said “will catch on like wildfire.”
“I’m a conservative. And I think there’s a decent chance to present to Republican voters a conservative without all the baggage,” he said.
The two men have repeatedly attacked the president over racial division. Mr. Walsh called Mr. Trump a “racial arsonist who encourages bigotry and xenophobia,” while Mr. Weld said the president was “a raging racist.”
Both challengers will have an uphill climb, because no sitting president in modern history who has campaigned for another term has failed to secure at least his party’s nomination.
The president also has an 87% approval rating among Republican voters, according to a Gallup poll in June.