It's been a quarter-century since former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld ran a successful campaign. Back then, in 1994, Weld was easily re-elected as the Bay State's chief executive. He was a liberal Republican, libertarian-leaning, in an era when there were still such creatures walking the Earth, at least in the Northeast corner of the United States.
These days, of course, even relatively moderate Republicans holding national office are a rare breed, indeed. There's Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. And then there's — well, you get the idea.
Nonetheless, Weld, 73, who had earlier said that he'd formed an exploratory committee to look at challenging President Donald Trump for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, officially jumped into the race on Monday. It was quite the leap.
Weld is still the man he's always been: a socially liberal, fiscally conservative Republican with libertarian leanings. But with the national party having been taken over by Trump and Trumpism — whatever that is at any given moment — Weld isn't merely an anachronism, but is more a museum piece.
Still, his campaign is worth cheering. Perhaps he'll succeed in reminding voters of the myriad failings of the current head of the once-Grand Old Party. He surely endeavored to do just that in the video that accompanied his campaign kickoff. At the top, it places Weld in context. A tough, crime-fighting U.S. attorney who had been appointed by President Ronald Reagan. A tax-cutting, budget-balancing, welfare-reforming governor who got the Bay State's then-shaky fiscal house in order. When the times called for someone to set a new course, Weld was that man.
Quickly, the campaign video then pivots to today, showing a brief montage of Trump's ridiculousness. There's his dismissal of the late John McCain's heroism. His claim that Mexico would pay for his vanity wall on our nation's southern border. His mocking imitation of a disabled news reporter. The "Access Hollywood" tape on which he boasts that his celebrity allows him to assault women. And more.
America can, and should, do better, the announcement says. And Weld is the man to lead the Republican Party out of the wilderness.
That's quite the stretch, of course. Trump has taken over the GOP, with the opposition, such as it is, mostly having gone underground.
Weld's only hope is to make hay in New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first primary early next year. With independents generally making up a fair chunk of Granite State primary voters, Weld hopes he can appeal to enough of the sometimes-cranky electorate there to make some noise. Enough, he and his backers hope, to put at least a dent in Trump's armor.
It's still only a fantasy, of course, but it's an awfully enjoyable one for folks who know in their hearts that Trumpism isn't Republicanism. Weld isn't going to wrest the GOP nomination away from Trump, but he'll at least try to be a thorn in the president's side along the way.
— The Republican, Springfield, Massachusetts