Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is the only major challenger left in the Republican primary against President Donald Trump.
On Friday, the third nationally known Republican in the race, conservative radio show host and former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, suspended his campaign.
Although Weld garnered only 1.3 percent of the Republican vote in Iowa’s Caucuses Monday, he said he still has a path to the nomination and visited The Sentinel Wednesday to make the case.
“When I say to an audience in this state that I’m a New England Republican, they know exactly what I mean, which is that I’m fiscally conservative and fiscally responsible,” said Weld, 74.
An unabashed critic of Trump, Weld — who ran against him once before, as the vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian Party ticket in 2016 — said he’s not seeking support from the president’s supporters.
“People say, ‘How are you going to turn around die-hard Trump voters?’ I’m not,” Weld said.
Instead, he believes he can serve as a moderate, fiscally conservative and socially liberal alternative for those who yearn for the brand of Republican leadership Weld yielded as governor of the Bay State from 1991 to 1997.
If he does well in New Hampshire’s primary Tuesday, Weld says, he can build momentum to succeed in the later primaries. But if he doesn’t win the nomination, Weld said eating into Trump’s support to the point where the president loses in November would be a “substantial achievement.”
Chief among Weld’s concerns is the country’s deficit, which hit $1 trillion last year.
“I think I could eliminate the deficit pretty quickly” through zero-based budgeting, said Weld, who added he doesn’t care about budgetary “sacred cows” and cited his decision to furlough 8,000 Massachusetts government workers on his first day in office and eventually eliminate the positions.
If elected president, Weld said he would use the bulk of his political capital to target “outrageous bureaucracies” and would consider raising the retirement age and implementing a means test to lessen the financial burden of keeping Social Security viable.
“My concern is the Social Security trust fund has to be totally restructured, and that’s going to be expensive,” said Weld, who served as the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts and the head of the criminal division in the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., before becoming governor.
On health care, Weld believes the Affordable Care Act was a start, but involves “too much government.” He wants to broaden the options families have for health insurance, including allowing people to buy insurance across state lines and get prescription drugs from Canada to lower costs.
Weld, however, did say he’s reversed his decades-long stance on leaving pharmaceutical companies to set the price of drugs and now believes the government, through Medicare, should negotiate on prescription drug prices.
“That’s more government, so I’m an eclectic picker of government power,” said Weld, adding he’s not against Medicaid expansion but would leave it up to the states to decide whether they want to broaden the program’s reach within their borders.
Weld said he also contradicts the Republican orthodoxy in his beliefs on public transportation.
“I might want to take a bird’s-eye view and try to shift things toward rail and public transportation. I hate to say it, as a Republican,” he said.
His views on how to address climate change are another area where Weld diverges from the president and many Republicans in Congress.
Weld believes an emergency declaration to deal with climate change would be well within the president’s authority. He also proposes a fee on oil companies for carbon emissions that would then be returned to consumers through a tax credit for lower-income taxpayers, which Weld said would help mitigate wealth inequality.
To accomplish any of his major goals, Weld would need to work collaboratively with the other branches of government. He says he has practice reaching across the aisle in the Massachusetts Statehouse on welfare and education-reform legislation.
“I can run with the Democrats on legislation like ham and eggs,” said Weld, adding he would hold “social meetings” with Democrats like he did as governor to foster goodwill between the parties and overcome polarization.
Weld said student debt is a burden that harms economic and labor mobility, and he would allow debtors to renegotiate and refinance student loans and provide forgiveness after a certain age in order to lessen the burden and prevent people from becoming “indentured servants to the federal student loan companies into their 40s.”
Weld is traditionally liberal on social issues, and said he’s been a longtime proponent of civil rights.
“My theory in general is you don’t want any individual or any group to be stigmatized or to have to live in the shadows,” he said.
Trump forces immigrants to live as second-class citizens, Weld argued. If elected, Weld said, he would increase the number of work visas to allow immigrants to fill labor shortages in agriculture and construction throughout the western U.S.
The key to fortifying the border is not Trump’s wall, Weld said, but increased security in the form of more agents, judges and drones.
“Only then we will not anymore have lost control of the border, whereas a wall, a wall can be surmounted and is a very bad symbol for the United States of America,” he said.
Also in contradiction to Trump, who has imposed tariffs and sanctions on trade with several countries, Weld said he would work to lessen regulations on trade.
“Trade across borders is always going to benefit the United States,” he said.
When it comes to foreign policy, Weld says he advocates diplomacy and is weary of intervention.
“I don’t believe in sending boots on the ground and 18- to 23-year-old kids to a foreign country to effect regime change,” he said.
Weld said he’s better equipped to foster positive relationships with U.S. allies than the current occupant of the White House, and said Trump doesn’t have “the stability to conduct foreign policy.”