WASHINGTON ― Joe Walsh has already been shut out of a dozen upcoming Republican primaries in his 2020 challenge to President Donald Trump, and on Thursday he found a closed door at the national party’s headquarters as well.
“Right now, this party, my party, is disenfranchising millions of Republican voters all over the country,” he said, standing in front of the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington and across the street from the Cannon House Office Building, where he once had an office.
Walsh is a former Illinois congressman and conservative radio talk show host. He and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld are both mounting long-shot bids to take the GOP nomination away from Trump, who was impeached last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and now faces a Senate trial.
Both Walsh and Weld have criticized state Republican parties that have canceled their presidential nominating contests to protect Trump from challengers.
“The Trump team is bragging, publicly bragging, about canceling the primaries,” Walsh said. “If you’re as strong, as popular as Donald Trump says he is, then why cancel the primaries?”
The RNC did not respond to queries regarding Walsh’s complaints. Technically, each individual state party sets its own rules on how to award its delegates’ votes at the GOP nominating convention. But those rules must be approved by the RNC, effectively giving the national party veto power.
So far, the state parties in Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina and Virginia have canceled delegate-awarding primaries and caucuses. A handful of others have effectively canceled them by imposing high signature requirements or just plain deciding that no one other than Trump can participate.
Minnesota Republicans, for example, are producing a ballot reminiscent of the old Soviet Union, with only one candidate ― Trump ― listed. Georgia Republicans demanded that Walsh promise to support the eventual nominee, which he was unwilling to do, and wanted to see a list of his Georgia supporters, Walsh’s campaign said. They, too, produced a ballot with just Trump’s name on it.
Walsh said he is on the ballot in about 35 states, including the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary early next month. His strategy is to try to win higher-than-expected shares of the votes there in hopes of boosting interest in his campaign in subsequent states.
On Thursday, the security guards at the RNC building let Walsh into the lobby, which is normally kept locked, but that was as far as he got. His campaign asked to speak with Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel or other top officials, but no one responded to Walsh’s requests.
He said it was ironic that after having spent hundreds of hours in the building as a congressman to make fundraising phone calls ― members are not allowed to make those calls from their congressional offices – he cannot get past the reception desk now to see McDaniel.
“She won’t give a lifelong Republican, former Republican congressman, Republican candidate for president five minutes of her time to talk about the disenfranchisement of millions of Republican voters,” Walsh said. “It’s not a party ― it is a cult, run by these party bosses who are scared to death of Trump, who do exactly what Trump tells them to do.”