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Former U.S. congressman Joe Walsh speaks during a campaign event at Riley's Cafe, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Jan. 29, 2020.

Matt Rourke/The Associated Press

Former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh ended his Republican primary challenge to U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday, abandoning an effort that faced long odds and financial struggles from the start.

“I’m suspending my campaign, but our fight against the Cult of Trump is just getting started. I’m committed to doing everything I can to defeat Trump and his enablers this November.” Mr. Walsh said in a tweet.

He told CNN on Friday morning that the Republican party is “Trump’s party … it’s not a party. It’s a cult. He can’t be beat in the Republican primary, so there’s no reason for me, or any candidate really, to be in there. The party has become a cult.”

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Mr. Walsh cast his ballot for Mr. Trump in 2016 and declared he would be “grabbing his musket” if the Republican Trump lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton. But Mr. Walsh eventually soured on the President, deriding him as “nuts,” “cruel” and “incompetent.” He has also acknowledged that he helped “create” Mr. Trump through his own brand of “personal, ugly politics.”

The Tea Party favourite turned radio talk-show host became Mr. Trump’s second 2020 primary challenger when he announced his candidacy in August, saying the incumbent was unfit for office and must be denied a second term. He presented himself as a conservative choice for people who were fed up with the chaos of the Trump era. Brimming with confidence over his campaign prospects, Mr. Walsh declared, “I think this thing … will catch on like wildfire.”

But Mr. Walsh faced fundraising hurdles and obstacles from the Republican Party from the start. A number of state parties cancelled their primaries and other nominating contests in an effort to protect Mr. Trump from the fate of George H.W. Bush, the most recent one-term president who faced a serious primary challenger and subsequently lost his re-election bid. Last year, the Republican National Committee issued a non-binding resolution to declare the party’s undivided support for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Walsh also failed to get his name on the ballot in some states, including Vermont, Mississippi and his home state of Illinois.

At times, Mr. Walsh struggled to differentiate himself as a viable Trump alternative. He courted controversy on social media in the years before his presidential run and was frequently pressed about those comments while on the campaign trail.

“There were some times when I went over the line and said things to be a little too provocative,” Mr. Walsh told a crowd at a college convention in New Hampshire in January.

His singular campaign focus was on criticizing Mr. Trump. He was often quick to ridicule former South Carolina congressman Mark Sanford for making fiscal conservatism the crux of his 2020 Republican presidential candidacy during his brief time in the race.

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“This isn’t about the debt and this isn’t about tariffs and it’s not about any issue,” Mr. Walsh said when Mr. Sanford ended his run in November. “Trump’s unfit. It’s an emergency, and that’s the only reason you get into a primary against a sitting president.”

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld is now the only major Trump challenger remaining in the GOP primary.

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