MANCHESTER, NH — Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld dropped by Saint Anselm College Monday to deliver a guest lecture on New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary and, by the way, remind students and guests that he’s running against Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination.
Weld spoke to students in Associate Prof. Chris Galdieri’s class, “The New Hampshire Primary and Presidential Nomination Politics,” for about twenty minutes before accepting questions. In his prepared remarks, he stuck mostly to the history of the Primary, only mentioning his opponent by name a couple of times.
“The New Hampshire presidential primary is kind of key to my plans,” Weld said. “A good part of the strategy is to focus on New Hampshire where I have spent a lot of time over the years.”
Weld, 74, was governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997. He grew up in Long Island, NY, but said he spent weekends at his family’s summer home in Henniker. He now lives south of Boston and likes that he can campaign all day in New Hampshire and still spend the night in his own bed. In a dark blue blazer, light blue shirt and red tie Monday, Weld looked healthy and energetic, fully comfortable in his role as a lecturer.
Based on its history, Weld said he has hopes that the New Hampshire Primary can upset Trump’s re-election campaign. “It could be a near-fatal blow to the position of President Trump, even before all the recent troubles involving the call to impeachment.”
It’s a trend, Weld said. Incumbent presidents who face contested primaries in New Hampshire face long odds. The March 11, 1952, Democratic NH Primary victory of Senator Estes Kefauver over President Harry S. Truman spooked Truman out of the race. Later, even the presidents who won their contested primaries fared poorly: Gene McCarthy v Lyndon Johnson in 1968, Ronald Reagan v. Gerald Ford in 1976, Ted Kennedy v. Jimmy Carter in 1980, Pat Buchanan v. George H.W. Bush 1992.
“It’s happened ten times in the modern era, beginning in 1952, that the president was running for re-election,” Weld explained, “and five of those times there was no opposition. On the occasions where there was no opposition, the president running for re-election was reelected easily. But five times, the president faced a primary in New Hampshire, and in all five of those occasions, the president lost [in the general].”
Weld’s last foray into presidential politics was in 2016 when he served as Gov. Gary Johnson’s running mate on the Libertarian ticket. The duo netted more than four million votes nationally, the best showing for a third party since Ross Perot in 1996.
Weld describes himself as socially moderate (he supports gay marriage, is pro-choice, and believes climate change is a real problem) and fiscally conservative.
“My motto when I was in office was always. ‘there’s no such thing as government money; it’s only taxpayers’ money,’” Weld said. “And it’s very clear no one’s looking out for the taxpayer. So you’ve got these trillion-dollar deficits. You all, Gen Xers and Millennials, are going to pay the piper for that. My generation is not going to get caught by that.”
Addressing a room full of people who had not been born when he was last in public office (one of them wearing a Trump shirt), Weld added, “When I’m talking to younger voters I say this is not fair to you. The trillion-dollar deficits are an anchor around you. The other issue where I think the same thing is the case is climate change and the environment. I’ve gotten deeply into that, and it really is pretty scary.”
Weld is scheduled to be back in New Hampshire Oct. 4-5.
Click below for audio of Gov. Weld’s remarks.