Dream On: ABC's Dowd Calls Weld Primary Challenge a 'Really Smart Political Move'

February 18th, 2019 3:25 PM

Just days after announcing that he was forming an exploratory committee to launch a Republican primary presidential bid against Donald Trump, former Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate Bill Weld appears to have at least one passionate supporter in the media: ABC’s Matthew Dowd.

Even after his fellow panelists on This Week explained why Weld’s candidacy could ultimately not go anywhere, Dowd still described Weld’s primary challenge as a “really smart political move” and maintained that Weld “would get 18, 19, 20, 22 percent of the vote” and force President Trump into debates.



Weld served as the Republican Governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997, when he stepped down after President Clinton unsuccessfully nominated him to become United States Ambassador to Mexico. Weld later unsuccessfully ran for Governor of New York in 2006 and joined the Libertarian presidential ticket in 2016 as Gary Johnson’s running mate. Co-host Martha Raddatz first brought up Weld by asking: “Is he a serious contender or…is he really just trying to weaken him (Trump) in the general election?”

Fellow panelist Susan Ferrechio of The Washington Examiner agreed that “you can weaken the general election candidate by primarying him” but ultimately concluded that I don’t think it’s necessarily realistic that Bill Weld has a chance to become the nominee even though you can say, well, there are a lot of never Trumpers in the Republican Party.”

Ferrechio cited the fact that “the base of the party, if you look at polls, is behind him” as the reason for her conclusion. Shawna Thomas of Vice News agreed that Weld has little chance of success: “It is really, really hard to beat the incumbent President of the United States in a primary especially.”

In spite of the strong arguments made by his fellow panelists, Dowd seemed to feel like Weld would attract a following in the Republican presidential primary, arguing that he “presents an argument for a lot of Republicans out there that defines the Republican Party in a certain way that’s not Donald Trump, and I think there’s a lot of Republicans in the aftermath of Donald Trump that are worried about who is the Republican Party, what do we fundamentally stand for, and what are we going to do?”

Nonetheless, Dowd admitted that Weld has a “very narrow path” to capturing the Republican nomination but argued that he had a better chance of becoming President than liberal billionaire Howard Schultz, who has flirted with running as a “centrist independent” in 2020, much to the chagrin of Democrats. 

A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of The Week is below. Click “expand” to read more.

ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos


09:50 a.m. Eastern

MARTHA RADDATZ: And Susan and Shawna, I want to go further on 2020, and, and the Republicans. You just heard Bill Weld and what he has in mind. Is he a serious contender or, or does he…is he really just trying to weaken him in the general election? 

SUSAN FERRECHIO: Well, you made a very good point when you were doing the interview, which is that you can weaken the general election candidate by primarying him and that’s what they want to avoid; the Republican Party wants to avoid a primary, they want to keep him strong for the general election. They don’t want him weakened by somebody constantly attacking him from his own party. So that’s a really good point, but, you know, I don’t think it’s, I don’t think it’s necessarily realistic that Bill Weld has a chance to become the nominee even though you can say, well, there are a lot of never Trumpers in the Republican Party; the base of the party, if you look at polls, is behind him. He’s got very high ratings. If you look at the poll crosstabs, Republicans like him as President. They are getting behind him, so I just don’t see a primary challenger being very realistic right now. 

SHAWNA THOMAS: And also, let’s, let’s be even more realistic. He’s the President of the United States. It is really, really hard to beat the incumbent President of the United States in a primary especially, and even in a general to a certain extent though this President has some specific characteristics that might make it a little bit easier depending on which Democrat comes up. It’s…the only thing that it does really is it would weaken the presidency, and you have to remember this President has been running for re-election since 2017. Literally, he filed I believe the day after the inauguration. They have been raising money. They have raised…last year, it was $100 million I believe, 2017 and 2018. He doesn’t have that much on hand. All Bill Weld can really do is try to make them spend that money on each other instead of spending it on Democrats and I still think they will still be spending it on Democrats. 

MATTHEW DOWD: I actually think it’s a real…I actually think Bill Weld running against Donald Trump is a really smart political move because here’s, here’s the situation. There is enough Republicans in the primary that he’ll get 18, 19, 20, 22 percent of the vote. Very narrow path, but it’s actually a wider path than Howard Schultz winning the presidency at this time, Bill Weld beating Donald Trump in this. But I think the main thing is he presents an argument for a lot of Republicans out there that defines the Republican Party in a certain way that’s not Donald Trump, and I think there’s a lot of Republicans in the aftermath of Donald Trump that are worried about who is the Republican Party, what do we fundamentally stand for and what are we going to do? And I think Bill Weld’s going to get in a position where Donald…he’s going to have a high enough percentage of the vote that people are going to start pressuring Donald Trump to debate him. He’s going to get a high enough percentage and that would be me, to me, a fundamentally interesting to debate to watch Bill Weld and Donald Trump one-on-one on stage.