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Detroit — Three Republican presidential hopefuls made clear Monday they detest President Donald Trump and declared he must go to an audience of 30-year-old and younger potential voters. 

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, former South Carolina Gov. and Congressman Mark Sanford and Illinois ex-U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh called the president a "traitor" and "liar" during a debate sponsored by the Forbes Under 30 summit, insisting he be impeached or voted out of office.

Even though Trump is favored easily to get the nomination, the three candidates said the Republican Party will suffer for decades if party members don't publicly oppose the president's excesses and defeat him at the polls. 

"A thousand times, yes. Remove," Weld declared to a loud applause from the younger crowd whom polls show is more likely to support Democrats.

Walsh joined Weld in calling for the impeachment of Trump, while Sanford said the House and Senate should vote to censure him. House Democrats have started an impeachment inquiry with closed-door hearings held by the House Intelligence Committee.

Sanford called Trump a "temporary phenomenon" and cautioned about pursuing the impeachment process. If the will of the people is to rid the country of Trump, vote him out of office next fall, he said.

Walsh wasn't so diplomatic.

"Trump's a moron, period," barked Walsh, who didn't shy away from the occasional curse word to emphasize his point. The three GOP candidates are willing to say what other Republicans believe but won't say publicly, he said, adding that "They are tired of his bull----!"

While sounding off on immigration, climate change and the future of the nation, Trump was the singular focus from the start to the candidates' closing statements.

Sounding at times like the plethora of Democratic presidential candidates at the various debates hoping to face Trump in 2020, each GOP candidate criticized the president with bravado at the event crawling with young voters they seemed to be craving.

Impeachment was the longest discussion of the hourlong event. Walsh was the most emphatic when he told the crowd to "really think about what he did" when Trump spoke to Ukraine's newly elected president about investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his family.

"That is an ultimate betrayal of this country, right?" Walsh said. "Asking a foreign government to screw around with our elections. Trump does this after the nation has been through a collusion nightmare."

Weld called Trump corrupt, saying he "has committed many offenses that qualify for removable offenses under our Constitution." He cited the obstruction of justice allegation in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report and the Ukraine situation as two main examples.

"I actually think that only if the Senate does its duty and removes Mr. Trump, are we going to be able to move on as a country," said Weld, who was the Libertarian Party's vice presidential nominee in 2016. "He's got the country so divided. Everyone is totally exhausted."

All three candidates, though, emphasized that the crowd not forget the GOP's traditional tenets — lower taxes, less regulation, fiscal responsibility — that will help lead them to a better future.

"I think he's going to destroy the Republican Party," Weld warned about Trump if he's re-elected.

Hirbod Bigvand, 24, of Dallas, who is the founder and CEO of Surfboard, said he appreciated the candidates' criticism of Trump but the president is still favored to win. And he is favored, he said, even with Trump being "a dictator" who has pushing immigrants like him away.

Bigvand, who is originally from Iran, said Trump is smarter than the men on stage — savvy and wise, said Bigvand, who is originally from Iran.

"He knows politics. He's a king of media," he said. "He knows how to make people happy. And that's dangerous. These people are hard to beat, they are hard to defeat. Especially how weak the Democrats are."

Weld, Walsh and Sanford can make Michigan’s March 10 primary ballot if they are included in the Secretary of State’s list due Nov. 8 of GOP candidates “advocated by the national news media” or if Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox includes them on a list of potential primary candidates due Nov. 12. Any primary hopeful excluded from the lists has until 4 p.m. Dec. 13 to submit at least 11,398 valid signatures to get a ballot spot.

lfleming@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2620

Twitter:@leonardnfleming

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