Opinion: Only one of Trump’s GOP re-nomination challengers is worth considering

Mark Sanford is the most reasonable alternative to the incumbent.


President Donald Trump walks to the podium during the Iowa GOP’s America First Dinner at the Ron Pearson Center in West Des Moines on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

Jason O'Day, Columnist

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016, but his actions have pleasantly surprised me. The tax cuts, sweeping deregulation, appointment of conservative judges, increased enforcement of immigration laws, and shredding of the Iran nuclear deal are changes that I firmly support.

Any Republican challenger to the president vying for my support has a high standard to meet, but they’re worth considering.

Bill Weld

Weld was Massachusetts governor from 1991-97, and Libertarian Gary Johnson’s vice-presidential running mate in 2016.

During his last campaign, Weld’s criticisms of Hillary Clinton and then-President Obama were scarce yet his praise of them common, which is unsurprising considering he endorsed Obama for president in 2008.

Weld cited the liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer as a favorite and praised Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in an interview with Reason . He has consistently advocated gun control and abortion rights throughout his career.

He has repeatedly compared Trump’s plan to deport illegal immigrants with Kristallnacht and even the Holocaust — analogies that should absolutely disgust anyone with a basic understanding of history.

Weld is insufficiently conservative and looks more like a moderate Democrat than a Republican in the 21st century.

Joe Walsh

Interestingly, Joe Walsh is a former Hawkeye who graduated in 1985 with a bachelor’s in English. In the late ‘90s he ran unsuccessfully for a liberal Illinois House district, painting himself as a pro-choice moderate Republican.

But in 2010, he reinvented himself as a hardline conservative, and even won a single term in Congress.

After that, Walsh became a fiercely provocative right-wing radio host, peddling outrageous conspiracy theories and incendiary rhetoric. In addition to supporting President Trump’s goofy birth-certificate hoax, he also suggested that President Obama was a Muslim who was elected only because of his skin color.

Now he claims that Trump’s tweets are ruining America. His tweets, one of which contained the N-word, were far more contemptible than any of Trump’s. He recently apologized for the remarks and claims he didn’t actually believe Obama was a Muslim.

Walsh’s chameleon routine is thoroughly transparent. He is a bandwagoning political opportunist of the worst kind.

Mark Sanford

Sanford is the president’s newest primary challenger — the only one actually worth considering.

He has a solidly conservative record through two six-year stints as a South Carolina Congressman, with two terms as the state’s governor in the interim. He has consistently fought for good-government policies aimed at ending corruption and special favors for lawmakers.

The national debt is more than $22 trillion. Trump and his fellow Republicans have done very little to push entitlement reform to address the reckless annual federal deficits that contribute to it. Federal spending levels under Trump are actually higher than  they were under his predecessors, according to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

This is why I support Sanford, who justifiably denounced Trump as the “king of debt.” His primary focus is the country’s long-term financial stability. If fiscal conservatives had a fantasy league, Sanford would be a first round draft pick.

This is not the GOP of 1976 — the party is exceptionally united behind Trump. He has a loyal base, and that’s good for his re-election chances. Even Marianne Williamson has a better chance of becoming president than any of these three men. 

However, I hope that Sanford’s campaign will spur a serious conversation about outrageous federal spending, much like the Tea Party movement did 10 years ago. It’s the policies that really matter.