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In GOP race, Bill Weld harbored no illusions

Former governor Bill Weld campaigning before the polls closed in New Hampshire Tuesday.
Former governor Bill Weld campaigning before the polls closed in New Hampshire Tuesday.David Abel

NASHUA, N.H. — He harbored no illusions.

Having won just 1 percent of the vote in Iowa, former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld wasn’t pretending he had a real chance to defeat President Trump in the nation’s first Republican presidential primary.

“I’m going to declare that I’ve exceeded expectations no matter what,” he told the Globe at the Amherst Elementary School, the 12th polling location he had visited on Tuesday.

He declined to enumerate his expectations. “The goal is to go all the way, ideally — to catch lightning in a bottle,” he said.

At his election-night party in Manchester, where about 50 supporters paid little attention to the vote tallies being shown on two large TVs, few seemed to be surprised that Trump was declared the winner shortly after the polls closed.

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Karen Mason, 68, a community college professor from Greenland, N.H., said she had decided to vote for Weld because of his courage to stand up to Trump.

“Donald Trump has destroyed our country,” she said. “I was so proud that Weld was going to take on Trump, and I thought he was worth my protest vote.”

A Republican before 2016, she vowed to vote for anyone but Trump in November. “This is no longer the America that I recognize,” said Mason, who passed out literature for Weld.

K. Peddlar Bridges, 73, a writer from Laconia, N.H., got to know Weld when he used to live in Massachusetts, where Weld served two terms as governor in the 1990s.

“I think he has the answers we need,” he said of Weld.

Asked if he worried that he was wasting his vote by casting it for Weld, Bridges said: “If you vote by conscience, that doesn’t matter.”

About an hour after the polls closed, Weld addressed his supporters, comparing his campaign to a “Prussian fighting machine” and “happy warriors.”

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“We’re going to be locked in combat with Mr. Trump for a long time,” he said. “We hope we’re going to have a big impact on the election.”

Aside from removing Trump, he was running to eliminate large fiscal deficits, remove carbon from the atmosphere, and preserve free trade, he said.

“This has been a labor of love,” he added.

With 40 percent of the votes tallied, Weld had won about 9 percent.

No matter the outcome, he vowed to continue on through at least Super Tuesday on March 3.

If he continues to lose — as is all but certain — Weld said he would likely endorse one of the Democrats, so long as the candidate was not too far to the left, he said. If Senator Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, he said would likely endorse the Libertarian.

Under no circumstances would he support Trump, whom he hoped would have been removed from office after being impeached, he said.

When asked if this would be his last presidential campaign — in 2016, he ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate — he said that was likely.

Then he quickly corrected himself.

“Wait,” he said, “if I’m the incumbent, I reserve the right to run for re-election.”

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.


David Abel can be reached at david.abel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.