President Donald Trump faces one challenger in the March 3 Republican Party primary in Alabama.
Trump, whose popularity in Alabama is second only to that in Wyoming, shares the top of the GOP ballot with Bill Weld.
A recent Gallup Poll listed the five most important issues for Republican voters as terrorism and national security, immigration, abortion, the economy and education.
On his campaign website, Weld discusses how he would approach each of these issues. The Trump website addresses what the president has done so far, but it does not mention what he would do if elected to a second term.
Terrorism and National Security
At the top of his recent achievements, Trump lists a drone strike that killed Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. Calling Soleimani the No. 1 terrorist in the world, Trump said the major general was plotting attacks on American diplomats and military personnel.
Trump said he has worked with Congress to increase defense spending to about $1.5 trillion in the last two budgets, and to expand and modernize military capacity.
He said he is creating the U.S. Space Force as a new branch of the military and revived the National Space Council to develop and implement a new space policy and strategy. He said he elevated the U.S. Cyber Command into a major war-fighting command.
Trump said he is pressuring the Taliban to reach a peace settlement with the Afghanistan government.
After withdrawing from the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, Trump said he is focused on neutralizing Iran’s influence in the Middle East and its support for terrorism. He said he would counter military threats from Iran to the U.S. and its allies.
Trump also said he cracked down on chemical weapons users, supported democracy in Venezuela and provided the sale of weapons to Ukraine, which was at the heart of his recent impeachment by Congress and acquittal by the Senate.
Weld said he is concerned by Russian interference in U.S. elections and espionage by China, which he said has grown more flagrant under the Trump administration.
“On day one, I will stop this outrageous conduct taking place daily in the Trump administration,” Weld stated on his campaign website. He said he would order the FBI to shut down Russian and Chinese intelligence activities in the U.S.
He also said he would order a damage assessment on classified information he said the Trumps disclosed to U.S. adversaries.
With 100 miles finished, Trump said he is fulfilling his promise to build a wall along the Mexican border to prevent illegal immigration. He said he is enforcing immigration laws to protect American communities and jobs.
He said he took action to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and declared a national emergency to enforce security on the southern border. He said immigration officers have made 269,419 arrests of illegal aliens during his presidency.
He signed an executive order disqualifying sanctuary cities from receiving federal grants and three executive orders to crack down on international crime organizations.
After pressure from the U.S., Trump said, Mexico agreed to deploy 6,000 national guard troops throughout the country to stop immigration and smuggling networks.
Weld said he wants to reverse Trump’s “ham-fisted ineffective Homeland Security policy.” He said illegal border crossings remain high because of instability in Latin American countries, which the U.S. needs to address.
He said the federal government needs to prevent criminals from entering the country and should provide visas to law-abiding immigrants who help the U.S. economy.
Weld said it is callous to separate children from their parents at the border and place them in inhumane conditions.
He said the U.S. should engage its allies south of the border in fighting against gangs and drugs. He said building a wall at the border is impractical and ineffective.
Trump does not address abortion on his campaign website, but prolife advocates have embraced him and he has appointed conservative judges who are friendly to the movement. He recently became the first president to directly address the pro-life movement when he spoke at the March for Life at the National Mall.
As Politico reports: “Speaking to tens of thousands of anti-abortion advocates from across the country, Trump emphasized how his administration has overseen the confirmation of 187 federal judges who ‘apply the Constitution as written.’ He also highlighted his successful nominations of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, two judges who were carefully vetted by anti-abortion groups prior to making it onto his list of potential nominees for the high court. And speaking about himself, Trump said ‘unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.’”
Trump said he would veto any legislation that weakens pro-life policies.
Weld doesn’t address abortion on his website, but the Associated Press reported that, during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, he called himself “the most pro-choice person you’re ever going to meet.”
He said abortion laws like those being passed in Alabama leave him feeling terrible, and government has no business making the decision for women.
“The way I look at it, it’s kind of a power issue,” Weld said. “And who wants a lot of big, fat white guys who live in Washington 700 miles away making the decision about what’s going to happen about a family pregnancy.”
Under Trump’s leadership, Congress passed tax cuts that the president said helped 82% of middle-class families. He said his measures alleviated the tax burden on more than 500 companies and cut taxes for small business by 20%.
He said the 2018 annual gross domestic product growth was 2.9% and it increased to 3.1% in the first quarter of 2019.
During his presidency, Trump said, his policies have generated 6 million new jobs, the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point in 50 years and wages have grown at 3% for 10 months in a row.
Trump signed an executive order that expanded federally funded apprenticeship programs and on-the-job training.
Weld said he worries about the next recession because many people haven’t recovered from the last economic downturn.
He blames the lackluster rebound of manufacturing jobs on automation and said the key is technical education and retraining.
“We need to make community college and online college tuition available for workers who lose their jobs due to automation so they can get back to work and making money, indeed, at higher wages than they had before,” Weld said on his website.
He said first, however, the nation must end the “destructive” trade wars that Trump started before they sabotage the economy.
Trump said he has made school choice a priority in his budgets. His fiscal 2018 budget included $1 billion for his Furthering Options of Children to Unlock Success Grants, which goes to public school districts with a large number of low-income children that allow students to choose which schools they will attend.
His fiscal 2019 budget proposed a $5 billion federal tax credit on donations that fund scholarships to private and vocational schools, apprenticeship programs and other educational opportunities.
The Trump administration expanded Pell grants to be available for college students for summer and winter-break classes.
Trump said his administration improved customer service and lowered cost for the student loan servicing process. He said officials also reformed the federal student aid application process and brought in financial experts to modernize the way the government offers and services student loans.
He said the Department of Education provided almost $360 million to 20 states and the Virgin Islands to assist with educating students displaced by hurricanes and wildfires.
Weld said elementary and secondary education is primarily a function of states and local communities, and the federal government should have minimal intervention. But, he added, unequal funding of school districts remains a problem as it relates to economic and racial equality.
As a governor, he said he learned that academic standards could vary widely by district with little accountability for performance. He said standards and accountability are important, as are competition among schools and parental choice. He said he is a proponent of charter schools.
He said he believes the more streamlined the education system, the better. He also said professionals such as architects or graphic designers should be able to teach without education credentials.
Weld said community colleges should play a larger role in helping displaced workers. He also said he would review the federal loan process to ensure that lenders are not taking advantage of college students with exorbitant loans to earn degrees that do not lead to adequate wages. He said he would expand a public service loan forgiveness program and work to make college more affordable for low-income students.