Former Rep. Joe Walsh has announced that he's challenging Donald Trump in the 2020 primaries

Walsh said he's challenging Trump in the GOP primaries because "the country is sick of this guy's tantrum"

By Matthew Rozsa

Published August 25, 2019 2:00PM (EDT)

Donald Trump; Joe Walsh (AP/Photo Montage by Salon)
Donald Trump; Joe Walsh (AP/Photo Montage by Salon)

Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, a right-wing Republican who has become the host of a popular radio show since leaving Congress, says he is running against President Donald Trump in their party's 2020 presidential primaries because "the country is sick of this guy's tantrum."

"I'm going to run for president," Walsh told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. After the ABC News anchor pointed out that Trump is supported by an overwhelming majority of Republicans and Walsh's candidacy will thus have a very difficult road ahead of it, the former congressman insisted that Republican primary voters should be offered a choice.

"I'm running because he's unfit; somebody needs to step up and there needs to be an alternative. The country is sick of this guy's tantrum — he's a child," Walsh explained to Stephanopoulos. He also expressed remorse over being a staunch Trump supporter during the 2016 presidential election, making it sound like he had helped to create a monster.

"I helped create Trump, and George, that's not an easy thing to say. I went beyond the policy and the idea differences and I got personal and I got hateful. I said some ugly things about President Obama that I regret," Walsh explained. He also apologized for referring to former President Barack Obama as a Muslim, admitting that this isn't the case "and I have apologized for that. I'm bearing my soul with you right now on national TV. We have a guy in the White House who's never apologized for anything he's done or said."

Walsh also told Stephanopoulos that "I don't want him to win. The country cannot afford to have him win. If I'm not successful, I'm not voting for him."

While Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh dismissed Walsh's candidacy by simply telling ABC News "whatever," Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel told ABC News that "President Trump enjoys unprecedented support among Republicans. He has already delivered a long list of incredible accomplishments for conservatives and the country. Republicans are firmly behind the president and any effort to challenge him in a primary is bound to go absolutely nowhere."

One sign of the potential seriousness of Walsh's bid is that he met on Thursday with George T. Conway III, a high-profile conservative lawyer and husband to Trump's adviser Kellyanne Conway, according to The New York Times. The conversation is reported to have lasted several hours with the two men discussing how they could strategize in the future. Although Walsh reportedly asked Conway to join his campaign, the attorney said he would not commit to anything but would think about it.

In the past Walsh would have seemed like an improbable potential primary opponent for Trump. He infamously tweeted in October 2016, one month before that year's presidential election, that "on November 8th, I'm voting for Trump. On November 9th, if Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket. You in?" He later defended himself by saying, "It means protesting. Participating in acts of civil disobedience. Doing what it takes to get our country back. We're talking about a musket. I could've said grab your slingshot and let's go. Metaphorically, I meant grab your muskets, if Trump loses, man, we're going to do what we have to do. We're going to protest and boycott and practice civil disobedience. We may start a third party. We're going to do a lot of things to get our country back, that's what I meant."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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