Former Congressman Joe Walsh knew running for the Republican nomination for President would be tough, but he said he is doing it out of necessity.
“Look, I knew this would be tough, I’m not an idiot,” he said. “I knew this was a long shot. I did it because no other credible Republican stepped up to do it. Trump is unfit. It’s been tough to raise money. We’ve gotten decent media attention, we get great reception when we’re on the ground in Iowa and in New Hampshire, but Trump and the Republican Party have cancelled primaries in about 10 states, so it’s not easy. But, we’re keeping our head down and just busting our ass in Iowa and trying to do the best we can do.”
Canceling those primaries have made a tough task even tougher.
“It’s just unprecedented,” Walsh said. “This has never effing happened before. You have a sitting President and a political party that have literally disenfranchised Republican voters in 10 states. It’s never happened before. So, yeah, I mean, I’m not naive. But even that surprised me.”
Walsh is concerned with where the Republican Party is at.
“I’m a conservative,” he said. “The (Republican) Party is not a party any more. I love issues. I don’t pledge loyalty to any politician. This is a cult. The Republican Party has become a cult under this guy and, you know, that makes it difficult to run against him.”
He spends his days either in Iowa or New Hampshire, and will be focusing on Iowa this week with the Iowa Caucus looming. When he visits the Hawkeye State, he says it goes well.
“Here’s the deal, if I had Mike Bloomberg’s money, I’d beat Donald Trump in Iowa and I’d probably beat him in the primary,” Walsh said. “When I can get in front of Republican voters, most of them — especially the conservatives — even though they like some of the things Trump has done, they’re sick and tired of him. They’re exhausted. They don’t want to go through four more years of this guy’s BS. The nice thing is, I’m a conservative. I was one of the most conservative members of Congress. I was a conservative talk radio host. Everybody knows I’m a conservative.”
Trump’s tariffs are part of the reason Walsh said he’s welcomed warmly in Iowa.
“Trump has screwed Iowa,” Walsh said. “In rural Iowa, his tariffs have killed Iowa farmers. What I have to do is get as many people in Iowa out to caucus as I can because I don’t think Trump’s real popular in Iowa.”
Walsh’s run is rooted in more than policy disagreements with Trump.
“If I just disagreed with Trump on a few issues, I wouldn’t do something like this,” he said. “I wouldn’t challenge him because this is the toughest thing I’ve ever done — challenging a sitting President. I’m running against him because I think he is unfit. He can’t tell the truth, he can’t place the country’s interest ahead of his own. I’m a limited government guy. I think Donald Trump is what our Founding Fathers feared. He’s a dictator. But, I know a lot of Republicans disagree with me on some of that, and they like some of the things he’s done.”
So, what does Walsh hear from voters in Iowa who give him the time of day?
“They don’t like the fact that he’s increased the debt faster than Obama,” Walsh said. “In Iowa, and other midwestern states, they don’t like his tariffs because they are tax increases. They don’t like the fact he’s all over the map. I think a lot of voters are tired of it. I’m a big border hawk. The border is worse off than it was when Trump got elected. So, there are some issues. Most of the Republicans I talk to, it’s that.
“That’s the case I’m making. If you want four more years of the Donald Trump show, ‘Just look at me, look at me, every day, I’m Donald Trump’ — then vote for him. But if you want to really get some (stuff) done, then we can’t support Trump any more.”
Without much money, Walsh is relying on a team in Iowa that has experience with the caucus. He is also trying to reach those who have left the GOP.
“There are a lot of people in Iowa who have left the Republican Party and we’ve been able to identify a bunch of them,” he said. “We’re trying to get them out to the caucuses.”
There’s one common theme he hears from 70-80 percent of the Republicans he talks to.
“It goes like this — ‘Hey Joe. I like some of the things Trump’s done, but I’m exhausted with all the BS that goes along with it,’” Walsh said. “‘The Democrats are socialists, so I’m not going to support them. I don’t want to live through four more years of this crazy guy, but what’s my alternative?’ I hear that when I’m out there all the time talking to Republicans, so I wish I could get in front of every single one because I can say, well, here’s an alternative. I’m a conservative. With me, you’ll get a lot of the conservative policy, you just won’t get all of the tweets, all the cruelty, all this other crap, all the lies…even Republicans are growing increasingly angry with how dishonest (Trump) is.
“I think Trump thought if he takes out the Soleimani dude in Iran, that like everybody would rally around him. But people don’t believe anything he says because he lies all the time. Even Republicans have a hard time with that.”
It seems there is an unusually high number of Republicans in Congress choosing not to seek re-election. There’s been speculation Trump has impacted some of their decisions by the media. Three Republican Senators are retiring and 27 members of the House aren’t running to retain their seat.
“Absolutely,” Walsh said. “I’ve talked to a number of them privately. I gotta tell you, most of my former Republican colleagues in the House and the Senate, but I talk to most of them in the House, they hate it. They absolutely hate it. They hate their job. They hate having Trump in the White House because, I’ve had so many of them tell me this, they don’t get asked about anything else. Again, it’s like Donald Trump every day, day after day. That’s no fun. Most of these guys are sick and tired of it, which is why they’re leaving.”