Quad-City Times: ‘The country will implode if we give him another 4 years’: Joe Walsh defects from Trump in launching presidential bid

This article by Graham Ambrose appeared in the Quad-City Times on 10/15/2019.

Former Congressman Joe Walsh was a political grenade thrower.

Walsh was elected to Congress in 2010 as a Tea Party Republican. He was a fierce critic of President Obama and for several years was an ardent backer of Donald Trump.

But his political loyalties have changed drastically. “I voted for Trump in ‘16. There’s no way I could ever vote for him again,” Walsh told the Quad-City Times Tuesday on a swing through eastern Iowa. “I think he’s a threat to our democracy. I think he’s what our founders feared.”

Walsh is still a populist conservative. “I am Trump’s base," he said.

He hopes his defection inspires others in the party. To galvanize anti-Trump forces, he launched his campaign for president in August.

Walsh is, in a sense, a single-issue candidate. That single issue is Trump.

“He’s a son of a b— who’s unfit,” Walsh said of the president. “The country will implode if we give him another four years.”

Walsh thinks he can wrest the nomination from the president’s grasp by appealing to the very Republicans he spent years encouraging.

“I’m someone who can say to these Trump people: I’m one of you,” Walsh said. “I voted for him. I believe in the same stuff you believe in. I’m not a horrible human being.”

A one-term representative from Chicago’s northwest suburbs, Walsh has roots in the local area. His late mother was born and raised in Davenport, and he attended Grinnell College and the University of Iowa. After being elected to Congress in the Tea Party wave of 2010, he was defeated two years later by Tammy Duckworth.

Walsh’s 10-year journey from Tea Party darling to Dump Trump ringleader has been attended by controversy, including a long track record of bigoted comments. Walsh had promoted the debunked birther conspiracy and falsely claimed President Obama is a Muslim. In 2016, he tweeted, “No more Muslims in the US. They want us dead.”

Walsh has since apologized for racist comments and for his role stoking social and political tensions in America.

His seven-week-old campaign is also a “public apology and redemption tour,” he said.

“I helped create Trump. Period,” Walsh said. “I have apologized for helping to create an environment that gave us Trump.

“It took the election of Trump to make me realize,” Walsh added. “Watching him these last couple years and thinking, ‘Oh my effing god, is that what I sounded like?’ ”

Walsh supports impeachment and thinks the president’s support is “soft.” He said he’s heard a refrain on the campaign trail: Republicans voters are weary. They've fallen out of love with Trump, Walsh said, and are desperate for an alternative who's farther right politically than the Democratic candidates.

Because if Trump receives the nomination, Walsh predicted, Republicans will face certain defeat in 2020. 

Only three Republicans have launched campaigns to challenge the president: Walsh, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

Early polls show Trump has an overwhelming lead, with Walsh polling between 1-5%. In a tweet from August, President Trump called Walsh a “one-time BAD Congressman from Illinois who lost in his second term by a landslide, then failed in radio.” Walsh hosted a conservative radio show after leaving Congress. The show was canceled by Salem Radio Network after he announced his candidacy.

Walsh's candidacy might be a longshot, but the candidate believes there's a chance yet.

“I’m telling his voters: With me, you’re going to get the stuff you want, the stuff you believe in,” Walsh said. “You’re not going to get all the horrible stuff — the lies, the would-be dictator s—, the above-the-law stuff, the Tweets every morning going after average Americans.”

If Trump wins the nomination, Walsh said there’s “probably a Democrat I could vote for.” Though he emphasized that he’s not made a decision yet and that he's never voted for a Democrat before.

“Trump has co-opted the Republican Party. In theory, it’s a party of free trade, free markets, limited government and opportunity for everybody,” Walsh said. “He’s a horrible human being, and we’re feeling that now.”