Lincoln Chafee, Jim Leach and Rita Hauser form ‘Republicans for Obama’

By Carol Eisenberg

August 13, 2008 at 1:21pm

For months, Barack Obama’s website has advertised ‘Republicans for Obama’ buttons for sale, but there have been few signs of mass GOP defection.

Susan Eisenhower.and Julie Nixon Eisenhower had pledged support back in the spring, but that was before Republican strategists really began hammering at Obama’s liberal voting record.

Yesterday, Republicans for Obama was organized to reach out to disillusioned GOP voters. The group’s founders said they would set up a website to contrast the records of Obama and Arizona Republican John McCain, but would not raise money for the Democrat.

In a conference call with reporters, former Iowa Rep. Jim Leach said this was the first time he had ever endorsed a Democrat, “but I think we’re at a juncture in our history that we’ve got to put the national interest ahead of the party interest.”

Leach, who had investigated Bill and Hillary Clinton’s real-estate dealings as head of the House Banking Committee, was joined by former Bush fund-raiser and lawyer Rita E. Hauser, as well as by former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who had represented his state as a Republican, but became an independent after losing his 2006 re-election bid.

Notably absent from the group was Sen. Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican who also broke with his party over the war, but who said yesterday he will endorse neither presidential candidate before the election.

During yesterday’s call, Chafee criticized McCain for voting against the Bush tax cuts and domestic offshore oil drilling, but supporting those measures while campaigning for president.

“Seeing the two different John McCains is a fracture to his credibility,” he said.

Though Leach and Chafee were longtime congressional Republicans, they often broke with their party on major issues, such as opposing the tax cuts enacted during Bush’s first term and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Hauser, who had raised money for George H.W. Bush, and for George W. Bush in 2000, endorsed John Kerry in 2004 because of her anger about the invasion of Iraq.

How much influence the group will have with GOP voters remains to be seen.

As the National Review Online pointed out today: “Neither Leach nor Chafee is particularly known for his staunch conservatism; they’re members of one of the least popular species in the political zoo: RINOs, or Republicans In Name Only. Chafee even formally left the Republican party in 2006, but it seems doubtful that naming the group ‘Former Republicans for Obama’ would be well received.”

The three spokesmen were vague about the group’s leadership, but a New York Times story cited about 20 current and former Republicans, including Douglas Kmiec, a Republican who served in the Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan and who supported Mitt Romney during the Republican primary, and Dorothy Danforth Burlin, a Washington lawyer who is the daughter of former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, another moderate Republican.

The Republican National Committee put out a prompt statement. “Barack Obama’s claims to bipartisan appeal are as thin as his record,” said spokesman Alex Conant. “Republicans will vote for a commander in chief ready to lead — not a partisan politician who is only ready to raise taxes and increase spending.”

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  • #1.   Bob H 08.13.2008

    1st thing that comes to mind is they have missed named it,
    …..Those people Should have called it “The Socialist Ring of Fools for Obama”

  • #2.   Kathy S 08.13.2008

    Slogan for The Republicans for Obama,
    ” Vote for Obama,
    It’s easier than Thinking “

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