The Slatest

Former Rep. Joe Walsh Will Take on Trump in Republican Primary

Former Rep. Joe Walsh appears on ABC's This Week on Aug. 25, 2019.
Former Rep. Joe Walsh appears on ABC’s This Week on Aug. 25, 2019.
Screenshot/ABC News

After a bit of a build-up, former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh has made it official and announced he’s running for president . He will challenge Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. “I’m going to run for president,” Walsh said on ABC’s This Week. “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.”

The announcement wasn’t exactly surprising considering the controversial radio host known for his incendiary remarks has been saying for days that Trump needed a challenger from the right. But it now officially makes Walsh, a former Trump supporter, the second Republican to launch a primary campaign against the president after former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. Walsh’s candidacy will be an uphill climb considering Trump enjoys a high approval rating among Republicans. But the one-term congressman says he will focus his efforts on Iowa and New Hampshire in the hopes of gaining momentum.

Walsh has spent the last few days on a bit of a media blitz calling for a Trump challenger to step forward. On Wednesday, he published an op-ep piece in the New York Times writing that “the president is more vulnerable to a challenge from the right.” Walsh added that he was “hugely disappointed that challenge hasn’t yet materialized.” Appearing on CNN the next day, Walsh said that the Trump challenge has “got to be the moral case” because “this guy is unfit to be president.”

But as Stephanopoulos pointed out to Walsh, he may not be the best person to make that moral argument considering his history of making controversial, and even racist, comments as a Tea Party congressman and then a radio host. “I helped create Trump, and George, that’s not an easy thing to say,” Walsh told host George Stephanopoulos. “I went beyond the policy and the idea differences and I got personal and I got hateful. I said some ugly things about President Obama that I regret.” That is, of course, putting it mildly considering Walsh didn’t just question Obama’s birth certificate, he also said he was secretly a Muslim and also seemed to call for violence when he said he’d be grabbing his “musket’ if Trump lost the election against Hillary Clinton. And those are just a few examples. There are many more.

When Stephanopoulos told Walsh that some of his past comments were really “textbook racism and sexism,” the former lawmaker said that Trump’s presidency made him “reflect on some of the things I have said in the past.” And he argued that his willingness to admit he was wrong should count in his favor, at least when compared to Trump. “I’m bearing my soul with you right now on national TV,” he said. “We have a guy in the White House who’s never apologized for anything he’s done or said.”

When asked about the announcement, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh had a one-word reaction: “Whatever.” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel expanded a bit more, saying that Trump’s support among Republicans means that “any effort to challenge him in a primary is bound to go absolutely nowhere.”