MANCHESTER, NH — “Honey, I’m back,” former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld announced Tuesday morning as he entered the Red Arrow Diner, the obligatory stop for any politician running for President.
Weld is very familiar with the popular eatery, having stopped by during various political campaigns for himself and on behalf of other politicians. The governor is the first Republican to challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in the 2020 race.
Eagerly awaiting Weld’s arrival were Amanda and Fred Vogt of Manchester.
“I am supporting him,” she said. The couple already attended an exploratory session Weld held in Henniker. She supported the Republican when he was the 2016 vice presidential nominee on the Libertarian Party ticket with former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.
She said Weld is reasonable and dignified. “He can bring the Republican Party back to sensibility,” she said.
Weld sat down in a booth to chat with Jeff Kassel, a Manchester Republican who said he sometimes votes for Democrats. However, in this instance he is firmly in the Weld camp, telling the governor that he wanted to work for him.
He offered up free advice as well, telling him Trump will try to demean him and dismiss him.
“I can only hope that happens,” Weld said.
At the end of their chat, the two exchanged business cards. “Maybe your people can call my people,” Kassel said which drew laughter from Weld and the media covering him.
Penny Koski, who served up Kassel’s breakfast, has worked at the diner for 27 years. She hasn’t seen too many politicians because most of those years were on the third shift. “They didn’t come in at 2 o’clock in the morning is all I can tell you,” she said.
However, one politician she did meet and wait on was Trump who ordered the Newton burger consisting of two grilled cheese sandwiches for the bun, a beef burger topped with fried mac and cheese, and an order of fries. The owner delivered the dish to Trump, Koski said.
Later, the dish was renamed Trump Tower Burger.
Weld talked with diners for about a half-hour. Outside, in answer to a reporter’s question about whether New Hampshire was the best shot he had at winning, Weld said it was hard to predict.
“You can be up 40 points and three weeks later you’re behind 15 points,” he said.
Pundits call Weld’s campaign a long-shot, particularly when Trump in the first quarter raised more than $30 million for the 2020 campaign and has vast support among Republicans.
“I definitely have a chance,” Weld said. “I don’t think this is a money race in New Hampshire. It’s really not. It’s a shoe-leather race and anyone who treats this as a money race is risking a backlash.”
Weld is a politician, businessman and attorney who was graduated from Harvard and Oxford universities. He is a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts who went on to become a two-term governor of the Bay State in the 1990s.
After, he ran for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts but lost to incumbent Democrat John Kerry.
This year, he returned to the Republican Party. He said he never strayed from his core Republican beliefs as a Libertarian.
In announcing he was running for President, Weld said in a statement:
“Ours is a nation built on courage, resilience, and independence. In these times of great political strife, when both major parties are entrenched in their ‘win at all cost’ battles, the voices of the American people are being ignored and our nation is suffering.”