“I know most of the senior Republicans in the Senate,” Weld, a long-shot candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, said in an interview at The Hill’s offices in Washington. “They’re picking their words carefully when they talk to me, of all people, even though we are friends.”
“I wouldn’t want to get quoted,” he added. “I don’t even like to ask someone to do something which is not in their political self-interest. But yeah, I would say they’re four to six votes for removal right now.”
Weld added that House Republicans who remain steadfast in their defense of the president will come to “regret” their decision to vote against impeachment.
With his impeachment all but certain in the House, Trump and his allies have come to view the GOP-controlled Senate as something of a political fail-safe. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the chamber and no GOP senator has said publicly they would vote to convict the president in an impeachment trial.
But Weld suggested that, privately, some Republican senators are still on the fence about whether Trump should be removed from office for his efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate a key political rival and subsequently stonewall the congressional inquiry into his actions. Sixty-seven votes are required to convict and remove a president from office.
He also said that House Republicans, who have aggressively defended the president and accused Democrats of shirking norms in the impeachment process, would pay a political price for their actions.
“I’m very happy to be the canary in the coal mine or the Cassandra who points out that this could be a self-defeating succumbing,” Weld said. “This could result in electoral defeat for the Republicans, in addition to be based on shaky morality.”
In the roughly 40-minute interview, Weld said his prospects in the Republican presidential race have improved amid the impeachment proceedings, which began in late September. The pace of his fundraising “is a little brisker,” he said, and he’s received warmer receptions at campaign events, adding that he plans to begin airing television ads in New Hampshire this month ahead of the state’s Feb. 11 primary.
“My experience around the country … people are just simply exhausted. They really don’t want to hear that much about Mr. Trump and they don’t want to pronounce his name and they don’t want you to pronounce his name either. But they don’t mind saying: ‘Can’t you get him out of there?’”
Weld is focusing his efforts primarily in New Hampshire, the first state to hold presidential primary elections and one where the former Massachusetts governor enjoys something of a neighbor status. He said he’s confident he will “outperform expectations” in the Granite State, insisting that a win there is possible.
“I think if I could win the New Hampshire primary, I think that would give Trump a real shove toward deciding that maybe he doesn’t want to do this, because he does not want to lose that election,” Weld said.
But he also acknowledged the intense political polarization in the country, predicting that if Trump loses his reelection bid, there are going to be calls for armed conflict. Weld noted that Trump himself has mentioned the prospect of a “civil war” — an apparent reference to a tweet in which the president quoted a prominent Baptist pastor who said that Trump’s potential removal from office would “cause a civil war like fracture in this nation.”
“He’s now threatening civil war. Let’s say he’s not reelected in 2020. My God, you’re going to have threats of marches on Washington — people with bayonets,” Weld said. “That may sound like an exaggeration, but he has said ‘Civil War.’ Capital ‘C,’ capital ‘W.’”
Weld said he’s “clear-eyed” about his political prospects. A handful of state Republican parties have taken steps to ensure Trump will be the only candidate on their primary ballots — a result of the “fear” Trump has used to maintain a grip on the GOP, Weld said.
In New Hampshire, a state where Weld has focused much of his campaign, he’s polling in single digits. A survey by WBUR released this week showed him registering at 9 percent support, while Trump came in at 74 percent. Joe Walsh, a conservative radio host and another long shot presidential candidate, notched 4 percent.
Weld acknowledged that a poor performance in the New Hampshire primary or on Super Tuesday would likely trigger the end of his White House bid. Asked whether he would consider running as an independent or under a third party if he fails to win the Republican nomination, Weld quickly ruled out either scenario.
“No, I would not run as an independent,” Weld said. “Depending who the Democratic nominee was, I could either support the Democrat or conceivably the libertarian.”
Weld declined to say if there was a particular Democratic presidential candidate he hoped would win the nomination. But he pointed to former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democrat most likely to attract disaffected Republican voters in a general election matchup against Trump.
Regarding Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a fellow Bay Stater and one of the leading liberals in the Democratic primary race, Weld said he “can’t judge” her chances of becoming the Democratic nominee in 2020, but predicted that she would face a tough path to victory in the general election because of her eagerness to lean into progressive policy proposals.
“I think she’d have an uphill battle in the final election because she’s really dug into this position that all jobs in the United States are created by government, they’re created by the public sector,” Weld said.