Ex-congressman turned radio talker Joe Walsh (R-Illinois) is the biggest Republican threat to Trump. To clarify, Walsh is one of three men challenging Trump in the Republican presidential primary.
Walsh, threatens President Donald J. Trump (R-New York) in four ways. First, Walsh is attacking the president’s credentials as a nationalist and a patriot.
“But I’m going to say it on purpose: Donald Trump is a traitor,” Walsh said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Trump puts himself first and America second
Hence, Walsh challenges and rejects the main argument for Trump. That argument is the President is a strong leader who is fighting for America’s best interests.
Moreover, I think Walsh correctly highlights the major flaw in the nationalist argument for Trump. Despite his nationalist reputation, Trump maintains close and secret relationships with questionable foreign governments and business interests.
Thus, Trump’s behavior is in violation of the Donald’s nationalist rhetoric. In fact, it is easy to argue that Trump puts himself first and America second. Hence, Walsh successfully exposes Trump’s blatant hypocrisy.
Walsh Reaches out to Moderates
Second, Walsh is reaching out to moderates, moderate Democrats, centrists, and independents in two ways.
Unlike his rival Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina) Walsh unequivocally backs impeachment. “This president needs to be impeached, Jake, just based on what he himself has said, and Republicans better get behind that,” Walsh told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
I think Walsh’s statement on a center-left network is a deliberate outreach to all the moderates and centrists who hate Trump. In contrast to the pundits, I think Walsh understands it is the centrists who really hate Trump and want him gone.
To explain, most leftists view Trump as “just another piece of Republican scum.” Thus, I think many leftists don’t care if they impeach Trump. In addition, some leftists like Thomas Frank admire Trump. Meanwhile, the Republican rank and file idolizes Trump.
Walsh understands that he cannot get the leftist or Trump fan votes now, but he can get moderate support. Hence, Walsh has a good and sophisticated understanding of America’s political landscape.
How Walsh Can Get Moderate Support
Furthermore, Business Insider claims Walsh takes several positions that could appeal to economic moderates.
For example, Walsh opposes “a government-sponsored healthcare system.” Hence Walsh is against Medicare for All, a prospect that frightens many moderate upper-middle-class professionals.
In addition, Walsh supports free trade and vows to end tariffs and Trump’s trade war with China. Therefore, Walsh tells upper-middle-class moderates: “I favor your stock portfolio over the trade war.” To explain, most moderates profit from the current free-trade economy and want it to continue.
Thus, Walsh is making a strong play for centrists. I think this play could pay off if the Democrats nominate a far-left presidential candidate; such as U.S. Senator Liz Warren (D-Massachusetts), U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), or Andrew Yang (D-New York).
Since, I think the far left will win the Democratic nomination; I consider Walsh’s bet on centrism a smart one. Importantly, most of America’s big-money campaign donors are moderates. Hence, Walsh could raise a lot of cash by appealing to the center on economic issues.
Walsh is a Loyal Republican
Third, unlike his rivals Sanford and former Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld. Walsh is a loyal Republican who stuck with the party and fought for Trump in 2016. Importantly, Walsh admits he voted for Trump in 2016.
In contrast, Weld ran for Vice President on the Libertarian Ticket in 2016. Meanwhile, Sanford is a long-standing anti-establishment conservative ideologue.
In addition, Walsh has connections to the GOP establishment and the Trump White House. For example, one of Walsh’s closest advisers is conservative lawyer George Conway. Oddly, Conway’s wife is White House counselor; and frequent Saturday Live, mockery target Kellyanne Conway.
George Conway nearly took a job with Trump’s administration but he is now a frequent critic of the President, CNN politics observes. However, George Conway now supports impeachment and labels Trump “a racist, a loser, and whack job.”
Finally, Business Insider reports Walsh, a former liberal, now takes doctrinaire Republican positions on big issues. Walsh opposes gun control and abortion, opposes a Palestinian state, and wants big tax cuts, for example.
Thus, Walsh is a mainstream Republican the Grand Old Party’s (GOP) establishment could live with. Moreover, Walsh’s positions are in line with the views of most Republican voters. If Trump goes down, Walsh could be palatable to both the Republican establishment and base.
Walsh is a nationalist
Fourth like Trump, Walsh is a staunch nationalist. Walsh admires and supports foreign leaders like India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Walsh has even spoken kindly of French right winger Marine Le Pen in the past.
I think Walsh could take many nationalist votes from Trump. To explain, Walsh is a strong nationalist and an outspoken critic of Trump. If Democrats expose Trump’s illegal dealings with foreign governments, Walsh could reap the rewards.
To elaborate, I think many Trump supporters will one day view the President has a liar who betrayed them. Walsh is positioning himself as the former Trumpers’ champion and spokesman. I think Walsh could get a lot of votes that way.
Interestingly, I wonder if Walsh knows something about Trump’s business dealings we do not. Remember, Walsh is close to George Conway, who could know some secrets of Trump’s inner circle. My suspicion is that Walsh knows of; or suspects, some scandal that could turn nationalists and conservatives against Trump.
An example of such a scandal could be direct payments from Saudi Arabia or China to Trump, his family, or the Trump Organization. Evidence of such payments could turn nationalists, Christians, isolationists, Islamaphobes, and many conservatives against Trump.
Joe Walsh will Lose in 2020 but could win 2024
In the final analysis, I think Joe Walsh will lose the Republican presidential nomination in 2020.
However, Walsh is putting himself in a good position for 2024. To explain, Walsh is following Bernie Sanders’ 2016 strategy of portraying himself as an outspoken but a loyal critic of the party’s leadership.
That strategy is paying off for Sanders today. In particular, Emerson Polling estimates Sanders has the support of 27% of likely voters in Ohio’s 2020 presidential primary.
Plus, Republican history shows this strategy can work. Ronald Reagan (R-California) laid the groundwork for his 1980 victory by challenging standard-bearer President Gerald Ford (R-Michigan) in the 1976 GOP primary.
In addition, Walsh will be in a great position if Trump drops out of the 2020 Presidential race. To explain, if Trump goes down Republicans will seek an alternative to the lackluster Vice President Mike Pence (R-Indiana). In particular, Pence’s close association with Trump could be liability if a major scandal surfaces.
Consequently, Joe Walsh could emerge as the big Republican winner in 2020. If Walsh’s strategy works he could emerge from 2020 as a major national political figure.