Joe Walsh, one of the few Republicans mounting a presidential challenge to President Trump, said he will not vote to re-elect the president if his bid for the GOP's 2020 nomination fails.
"Hell no," Walsh told Cheddar on Thursday. "I'm running because I think he is unfit and I think he is a danger to this country. I could never support that."
Walsh, a former Congressman from Illinois and conservative radio host, launched his campaign last month by trying to make the case that Trump is uniquely and morally unfit to lead the nation. His bid, however, is widely seen as quixotic given the strong support for Trump among Republican voters and the GOP establishment. Several polls put Trump's approval ratings among Republicans as high as 80 to 90 percent.
Yet Walsh, who was elected to Congress as a staunch Tea Party Republican and was an ardent supporter of Trump in 2016, said the president is "destroying in the Republican brand" with his rash behavior — and that support for him endures simply because there is no Republican alternative.
"This guy in the White House lies almost every time he opens his mouth. He's cruel, he's bigoted — he's just mean," Walsh said.
Critics note, however, that Walsh largely came to right-wing prominence peddling conspiracy theories and making bigoted comments himself. Most notably, his repeated false claims that former President Obama is Muslim and was not born in the U.S. On New Years Eve in 2016, for instance, Walsh tweeted "Obama is a Muslim. Happy New Year!"
Walsh has also routinely attacked organizations like Black Lives Matter, defended the use of homophobic slurs, and has been criticized for fanning the flames — and inciting violence — around cultural sensitivities.
In 2016, after several police officers were killed in Dallas, Texas by an African American gunman, Walsh tweeted "This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you." The tweet was quickly deleted but sparked shock and outrage. Months later, when Walsh supported then-candidate Trump, he tweeted that "if Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket. You in?"
Walsh has since apologized for his lengthy list of bigoted and controversial remarks, including the racist comments about Obama. He also told MSNBC last month that "I wouldn't call myself a racist, but ... I've said racist things on Twitter. There's no doubt about it."
Walsh has also ceded that his language — especially his rhetoric on Twitter — mirrored that of Trump and his ilk; and sowed resentment into certain voting blocks that contributed to Trump's electoral victory. Yet the difference between Trump and himself, Walsh has said, is that he has apologized.
2020 is about one thing, and one thing only: Donald Trump.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) September 5, 2019
Walsh is joined by former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and former South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford in challenging Trump in the upcoming Republican primary. All three candidates argue that Trump is particularly unqualified to occupy the Oval Office.
"Every day and week that goes by, this president proves more and more that he is unfit and I think Republican voters will welcome a primary challenge," Walsh said.
Walsh and the other candidates, however, faces significant hurdles to beating Trump. Republican officials in several states this week — South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, and Kansas — canceled their primaries altogether. Foregoing the elections, which proponents and Trump say will save the GOP money, will result in the state's delegates automatically going to Trump.
"We're going to fight it with everything we've got … This kind of thing cannot stand in America," Walsh said regarding the canceled primaries, which he said disenfranchises Republican voters.
Trump on Monday dismissed his challengers, saying "I don't even know who they are ... I guess it's a publicity stunt."