When I touched down in Charlotte as the only New Hampshire lawyer at the Republican National Lawyers Association’s annual election seminar last week, the first thing I saw was a former N.H. GOP state party official’s tweeted objection to the unveiled 2020 Convention logo, featuring a crown and an elephant. The Queen City connection wasn’t immediately clear to him, and he opposed any design that implied a renomination as a formality for an already coronated president.
Matt Welch recently wrote in Reason magazine that Trump “has rigged the Republican National Committee to an extent that would make Hillary Clinton jealous.” There are still rank-and-file activists who are more open-minded.
The first lawyer I sat down next to at the two-day conference, from North Carolina, said he was “not all in” on the president, that he “wish[ed] Trump wouldn’t be rude all the time,” and, “He’s a lot of things; he’s not a statesman.”
Later that morning, I introduced myself to the room in an Uptown hotel as counselor to announced Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor and head of the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division. No boos or catcalls. Charlotte’s City Council voted to strongly condemn chants at a Greenville, N.C. rally last month. After three lawyers for the Trump campaign spoke on a panel, I commented that I found their remarks on strategy unoffensive and actually thanked them for their professionalism. I and what I shared about Weld’s campaign were well received the rest of the weekend. It wasn’t just Southern hospitality, as there were 240 attendees from across the country.
Another lawyer in attendance, from Virginia, volunteered that he did a lot of work for Libertarians last cycle, when Weld was the vice-presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party. Two others, one from Maryland, self-identified as “small-l libertarians” at least. One from Washington, DC referred me to an enthusiastic Weld-supporting attorney in Connecticut. I shared a pleasant dinner after with new friends from Missouri and California.
There is a primary for underway for Republicans. There is a choice. Bill Weld is mine.