By John Harney
President Donald Trump, though overwhelmingly favored to win the Republican nomination in 2020, ridiculed three GOP opponents who are running or might run against him as the “Three Stooges.”
“Can you believe it? I’m at 94% approval in the Republican Party, and have Three Stooges running against me,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday night. “One is ‘Mr. Appalachian Trail’ who was actually in Argentina for bad reasons.”
“Another is a one-time BAD Congressman from Illinois who lost in his second term by a landslide, then failed in radio,” Trump wrote. “I should be able to take them!”
Joe Walsh, a radio commentator and former congressman from Illinois announced on Sunday that he would challenge Trump. “The bet that my campaign is making – and I’m going to pound Trump every single day – he’s a bully, and he’s a coward, and somebody has to call him out,” Walsh said of his long-shot bid on ABC’s “This Week.”
The Argentina crack was an apparent reference to Mark Sanford, who finished his second term as governor of South Carolina under a cloud after the revelation of an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman. His office tried to explain his absence by claiming that he was “hiking the Appalachian trail.”
Sanford was later elected to Congress, and became known as a Republican critic of Trump. He narrowly lost a 2018 primary after the president endorsed his opponent and tweeted on election day that the lawmaker was “nothing but trouble.”
He has not declared his candidacy for president, but earlier this month he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump was “taking us in the wrong direction.”
Trump also seemed to refer to former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, who has been running since April.
Other potential candidates include former Ohio Governor John Kasich, who ran against Trump in 2016; and former Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.
But no Republican challenger poses a threat to the renomination of Trump, who remains very popular with Republican voters. A recent AP poll found that nearly eight in 10 Republicans approve of his overall job performance, while only 20% disapprove.