Government

Dark horse GOP candidate Joe Walsh favors Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren in White House over Donald Trump

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois talks to diners Wednesday during a meet-and-greet at the Bluebird Diner in Iowa C
Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois talks to diners Wednesday during a meet-and-greet at the Bluebird Diner in Iowa City. He is challenging President Donald Trump in the Republican caucuses and primaries, saying even the most liberal Democratic candidates would be preferable as president because “they can have a respectful conversation about issues.” (David Harmantas/Freelance)
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IOWA CITY — Either Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — two of the furthest left in the Democratic primary field — would make a better president than Donald Trump, former Illinois representative and dark horse GOP primary challenger Joe Walsh said Wednesday.

Walsh, a former conservative radio talk show host, railed against Trump as an egomaniac and prolific liar who holds a cultlike hold over the Republican Party. He is looking to cut into the president’s support.

“He’s an ass. He wants people talking about him all the time,” Walsh told a small group of visiting political advocates at Bluebird Diner. “I would rather have Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders in the White House than this guy. At least they can have a respectful conversation about issues.”

Walsh, who attended Grinnell College before completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa, served one term, 2011-13, representing a northwest suburb of Chicago. He also was expected to stop at Hamburg Inn in Iowa City and in Cedar Rapids, Bettendorf and Davenport on Wednesday.

He was meeting with a dozen Seattle, Wash.-based political activists from the group Common Purpose, which is planning 18 voter registration efforts around the country. In the days before the Iowa caucuses, they came to see retail politicking of a number of candidates in person.

Others urged Walsh to run, and he did when higher profile Republicans at odds with the president, such as former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, declined to do so, he said. He called fellow GOP primary challenger and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld “a great guy.”

Walsh does not believe he can defeat Trump but hopes to gain support from some Republicans and independents and surprise Trump “with a good number.”

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While Walsh was harsh on Trump, who he said would leave a legacy of “destruction of truth,” he was equally hard on his party, which he accused of being a “cult, not a party.”

Backing Trump, he said, will be a “permanent mark” that politicians, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, cannot escape.

The Trump era is far from other, he said, even if Trump loses in 2020.

“Some of them want him to lose. Some think he will lose, and this will all be over and they can move on,” Walsh said of conversations with Republican leaders he’s kept in touch with. “Even if he loses in November, he will grab Sean Hannity, and they will start their own TV network. He is not going away. I think this Trump thing is permanent.”

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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