Can a pro-choice, pro-amnesty "Libertarian for life" who backed Barack Obama in 2008, thinks the phrase "all lives matter" is "nothing but a dog whistle," and maintained throughout 2016 that Hillary Clinton is preferable to Donald Trump, truly be competitive in the 2020 Republican Party presidential primary? That's what Bill Weld is set to begin finding out in New Hampshire tomorrow morning, when he takes what his friends are forecasting as a substantial move toward declaring his candidacy for president.
Weld, the 2016 Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee and current* honorary chair of a nonprofit whose purpose is to "stop the political duopoly" (*Update: Our America Initiative announced this afternoon that Weld has resigned that post effective today), took the pre-primary step January 17 of switching his Massachusetts voter registration back to a Trump-led GOP that he has repeatedly compared to the xenophobic Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s. He has scheduled a second New Hampshire visit for February 26, he has recruited former New Hampshire Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn to help, and his allies are writing thinkpieces about how "Democrats' hopes to take back the White House may lie in the hands of a Republican candidate." (Update 2: WMUR is reporting that Weld will announce Friday the formation of an exploratory committee.)
Like potential independent candidate Howard Schultz and Democrats, Weld's reception among Republicans has been on the chilly side, with even his own Trump-averse protégés, such as Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, making cautious statements like, "I'm a big fan of Bill Weld the person, but the decision he makes to run for office is very much his own."
The northeastern moderate conservative was already an endangered species long before Donald Trump began reshaping the GOP; you can count the number of pro-choice Capitol Hill Republicans on half of one hand. Weld stands opposite Trump on trade wars, immigration crackdowns, the national debt, entitlement reform, the rule of law ("Well honestly, hasn't our incumbent done six times [more than Richard Nixon] in public with Manafort in the investigations?" Weld said to me last month), and what he described at the Libertarian Party National Convention last July as "this pitting of us against them and trying to divide everybody."
So why the interest in being a bug on Trump's windshield? Aside from the opportunity to be the first declared 2020 Republican competitor (and near his home turf, to boot), with all the national and local press attention that could generate, Weld has long been nurturing the theory that modern politics are inherently unpredictable. "You think about Donald Trump in 2014, you couldn't got 100 to one on Donald Trump," he said at the L.P. national convention last year. "Emanuel Macron from France in 2015, which is two years before he was elected, you couldn't count on 100 to one for him, because his party didn't exist."