Trump was clearly not the establishment choice for the Republican Party back in 2016. So many loathed his candidacy that there even exists a lengthy Wikipedia article listing Republicans who publicly opposed his candidacy until his surprise victory. However, most Republicans have now fallen in line, staying silent on their past contempt for Trump or even making a complete 180 in fully embracing him. Joe Walsh (R-Illinois), however, doesn’t quite fit this mold.
Walsh fully endorsed Trump following his primary win in 2016. In October of that year, he even ignited controversy when he tweeted "On November 8th, I'm voting for Trump. On November 9th, if Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket. You in?" His support quickly soured throughout the administration, though, as trade wars and economic anxiety took hold.
His contempt came to a tipping point when Walsh announced he was challenging Trump in the 2020 Republican primary on Aug. 5. However, I remain skeptical if Walsh truly believes he is the antidote to Trump, or if he is a grifter trying to use this run for other purposes without any intention to win.
Walsh had a short time as a legislator. Representing Illinois’ 8th Congressional District for a single term, he was redistricted into a less-than-favorable situation and eventually lost to opponent Tammy Duckworth in 2012. He then found success as host of the eponymous radio program, "The Joe Walsh Show," before announcing his presidential bid.
Walsh’s campaign will most likely not make a huge splash. Recent polls put Trump’s approval rating among Republicans at around 88%. Similarly, a recent New Hampshire poll puts Walsh behind in a massive 88% to 1% spread against Trump. Apparently, many states plan to even scrap the Republican presidential primary altogether.
So why is he still in the fight? While an optimist may claim moral grounds, to me, there’s potentially a more politically-motivated reason. He wants to run for Congress again.
When a candidate runs for a federal office, if said candidate decides to run for a different federal office, they can transfer their funds. In fact, they can do this from campaigns even from years ago, much like Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is funding some of her presidential campaign through her 2018 Senate reelection campaign.
Joe Walsh has every capability to do this for a potential congressional bid.
With comments like calling the current GOP “a cult,” he goads independents, moderate Republicans and even some Democrats into donating to his campaign. He is raising cash and raising his profile to those who might otherwise look away from a simple campaign for Congress. Then, when he has raised enough, he can flip the switch.
Realistically, Walsh faces paper-thin odds to the Republican nomination. The way he has been lambasting his own party shows that he seems like he doesn’t even want it. Even though he swears to be in the fight against Trump's stranglehold on the GOP, don’t be surprised if he nonchalantly switches to a congressional bid.
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