Government

Former UI student Joe Walsh brings long-shot presidential bid to Iowa

Ex-congressman challenging Donald Trump for Republican nomination

Joe Walsh, a conservative former congressman, announces his intention to challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican Party’s 2020 White House nomination in a still image taken from his campaign video Aug. 25. (Handout via Reuters)
Joe Walsh, a conservative former congressman, announces his intention to challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican Party’s 2020 White House nomination in a still image taken from his campaign video Aug. 25. (Handout via Reuters)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Joe Walsh thinks that many people who voted for Republican Donald Trump in 2016 are looking for an alternative in 2020.

So the former Illinois Republican congressman is challenging them to “be brave enough to act publicly on what they know privately.”

“I voted for Donald Trump,” Walsh said during a stop Tuesday afternoon in Cedar Rapids. “I know why they voted for Trump. Like me, they wanted disruption. They were sick of both parties and the political system that was broken.”

But, he said, they didn’t vote for dishonesty and disregard for the Constitution.

“We didn’t vote for this guy who is like a malignant narcissist,” Walsh said.

“I am an American and a Republican,” he said. “I believe in the rule of law. I believe in the separation of powers. I don’t believe the president should be a king or dictator. Donald Trump doesn’t believe in any of that, and he wants to be a king and a dictator.”

As a long-shot challenger to Trump, Walsh said his challenge is “to get myself and other Republicans to acknowledge, not that we made a mistake in 2016, but clearly we can’t do the same thing in 2020.”

A University of Iowa English major, Walsh studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, taught at a community college and worked as a fundraiser, researcher and at financial firms before eking out a 291-vote win over a three-term Democratic congresswoman in the Tea Party wave of 2010.

While in the House, Walsh launched often personal attacks on Democrats, especially President Barack Obama. He rejected tax increases, voted against raising the debt ceiling and authored a balanced-budget amendment. Walsh also rejected climate change, a position he since has reversed.

In 2012, now-U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., defeated him.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

After leaving Congress, Walsh hosted a radio talk show. Initially, he supported Trump. However, he now thinks Trump is “incapable of telling the truth ... of caring about anyone other than himself.”

“If we give him another four years, I worry for the country,” Walsh said.

Since announcing his candidacy Aug. 25, he’s been visiting Iowa and New Hampshire as well as other states, including South Carolina, where the GOP canceled its primary in a show of solidarity with Trump.

Walsh disagrees with Trump on numerous issues. Trump has increased the national debt more and faster than Obama. The tariffs are “horrible policy.” Trump ran on securing the border, but has made a mess of immigration, Walsh said.

“He’s so bad for this country that it’s hard to talk about anything else,” said Walsh, 57. “I’d like to talk about the issues, but I wouldn’t be doing this if I just disagreed with him on the issues.”

He’s read special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on 2016 Russian election interference and believes Trump should be impeached for obstruction of justice.

“I’m convinced that most Republicans privately believe that Trump is unfit,” Walsh said. “I know most of my former colleagues in Congress believe every word I say about Trump. They think he’s a moron. They think he’s an ignoramus. They think he’s dangerous.”

Republican voters tell him they are tired of Trump, tired of his tweet rants and tired of all the drama.

“They’re tired of waking up every morning and there’s some Trump bullshit going on. They need to see an alternative,” he said. “I need to become that alternative.”

For more information, visit https://www.joewalsh.org/.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.