NEW HAMPSHIRE—With nearly a dozen Democratic candidates crisscrossing the state, it’s easy to miss that there’s also a Republican primary happening next Tuesday.
Cue Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor and Libertarian VP candidate making a quixotic run at Donald Trump.
“I’m a happy warrior,” Weld said Wednesday at a town hall-style event in Nashua. “I love every part of the campaign, and it always surprises me when other candidates say they don’t.”
Like most candidate events in New Hampshire, many attendees were still in the feeling-out process, and turned out with genuine interest in what the hopeful had to offer.
Others came to ask the candidate questions face-to-face about issues such as health care and gun control (most from a more liberal perspective).
A solid chunk, maybe the majority of attendees, were divided between Weld diehards and conservatives disgusted by the Trump presidency and looking for a new candidate.
“I’m a classic Republican,” said Claira Monier, who joined the Weld team last year as co-chair of his New Hampshire campaign. “I’m worried about the deficit.”
In addition to fiscal conservatism, Monier cited attacks on the Constitution and the “rule of law” as major issues that drew her to Weld. She knew Weld from their time together in the Ronald Reagan administration when he was the US attorney from Massachusetts and she worked in the Health and Human Services department.
“I started out with never Trump,” Monier said. “I listened to the Dems. I’m sorry, they just want to spend. Fiscal issues drove me to Weld.”
The top issue of the day, naturally, was the Senate’s acquittal in Trump’s impeachment trial.
“I must say, I’m a little troubled when I look around and see what’s happening,” Weld said, adding that he “was so proud of Mitt Romney,” another former Mass governor who was the only Republican to vote for impeachment. In 2012, Romney picked up 97,591 votes in the New Hampshire primary, good for 39% en route to a victory that propelled him to the Republican nomination.
A college-aged attendee asked Weld for advice for young Republicans like himself who were disturbed by Trump and the rising hard-right core of the party.
“My answer to that would be to vote for Weld,” said another supporter.
Weld said he believed Republicans aligning with Trump in Congress would eventually pay a price electorally.
“Stay Republican,” Weld said. “The landscape could look quite different.”
Weld has hinged whatever success he’ll have on New Hampshire.
“We’re getting ready for a big push,” said Martin Skold, Weld’s co-campaign manager.
The former Massachusetts governor will have something of a “home field advantage,” with the Granite State’s propensity to nominate candidates from their neighbor to the south. In three of the last four primaries, New Hampshire voted for a candidate from a neighboring state.
“New Hampshire can have a domino effect,” Weld said in 2019.
Weld has continued to campaign heavily in New Hampshire since early last year, touring the state with small events and connecting with as many voters one-on-one as possible.
Recent polling has shown Weld hovering at around 8%, trailing Trump by nearly 80 points.
In Iowa, Trump crushed the opposition. Weld picked up just 1.3% of the total vote. But that didn’t keep the campaign from picking up one of the Hawkeye State’s 40 delegates.
“We’re excited that we took delegates,” Skold said.
On Monday night, Trump will fill the SNHU, and likely the streets, in Manchester, a day before the primary. On Tuesday, we’ll know if Weld’s undersized and underfunded rebellion ever had a chance.
This article was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its Manchester Divided coverage of political activity around New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. Follow our coverage @BINJreports on Twitter and at binjonline.org/manchesterdivided, and if you want to see more citizens agenda-driven reporting you can contribute at givetobinj.org.