Biden rides on endorsements from former Republican rivals

US presidential hopeful Joe Biden shown at the Democratic National Convention at a drive-in event in Pennsylvania earlier this month. Republican stalwarts have endorsed him in prime-time speeches at the convention.
US presidential hopeful Joe Biden shown at the Democratic National Convention at a drive-in event in Pennsylvania earlier this month. Republican stalwarts have endorsed him in prime-time speeches at the convention.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON • Mr Joe Biden, striving to win over undecided voters who could swing the election against United States President Donald Trump, is sparing no effort to broadcast one of his most potent weapons - endorsements from many of his former Republican opponents.

From handing Republican stalwarts prime-time speeches at the Democratic National Convention to welcoming endorsements from hundreds of former staff of former president George W. Bush, the late senator John McCain and Senator Mitt Romney, the presidential challenger is waving his bipartisan credentials high.

But will it work?

Ms Kari Walker, a 50-year-old Wisconsin resident who has backed Republican candidates for two decades, plans to vote for Mr Biden on Nov 3.

Ms Walker, who two weeks ago said she could not bring herself to vote for Mr Trump - "a worse President than I could have imagined" - felt reaffirmed by the stance of the former Republican staff.

"I found the support of GOP stalwarts to be persuasive," said Ms Walker, referring to the Grand Old Party, a traditional nickname for Republicans.

She and her husband own a tavern in the small town of Reedsburg, in a county that backed Mr Trump in 2016 after twice voting for Democrat Barack Obama.

"I would be voting for Biden regardless, but I appreciate GOP influencers crossing over," she said.

While Mr Obama's former No. 2 continues to lead Mr Trump in polling nationwide, the President has narrowed the gap in certain key states, those that regularly "swing" back and forth between Republicans and Democrats - and which can decide a close election.

The billionaire Republican has been courting them openly, warning against the "anarchy" he says a Biden presidency would bring, which he says could lead to the "destruction" of the nation's leafy - and mostly white - suburbs.

The Republican convention heard from some former Democrats, their presence designed to underscore Mr Trump's outreach to those crucial battleground states.

But Mr Trump appears to be benefiting from less party-switching than Mr Biden, who has worked to persuade voters disappointed, even disgusted, by Mr Trump's style and stewardship, notably of the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 180,000 American lives.

"This is not an easy decision for Republicans to make," wrote the former staff for Mr McCain, the late Republican senator and 2008 presidential candidate who had a mutually disdainful relationship with Mr Trump.

"Given the incumbent President's lack of competent leadership, his efforts to aggravate rather than bridge divisions among Americans, and his failure to uphold American values, we believe the election of former vice-president Biden is clearly in the national interest," they wrote in an open letter.

The former Bush staff sounded a similar tone.

"The onslaught of insults and vulgarity we have witnessed in recent years must stop," they said. "We have lost our moral compass."

Several groups of anti-Trump Republicans, including the Lincoln Project, have previously announced their support for Mr Biden. But since the Democratic convention opened on Aug 17, the persuasion campaign has taken on new intensity.

Mr John Kasich, a former Republican governor of the swing state of Ohio, was given a prime speaking spot on that first night.

On the following night, Mr Bush's secretary of state Colin Powell, a controversial advocate of the war with Iraq, had the Democratic limelight.

And last Monday, the opening day of the Republican convention, the Biden team announced the support of some 20 former Republican members of Congress.

"These lapsed Republicans are emblematic of the many former Republican voters concentrated in affluent, growing and highly educated suburban areas who have been leaving the GOP in the Trump era," said political analyst Kyle Kondik.

But he added: "That said, I don't know if these endorsements actually move new voters out of Trump's camp."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2020, with the headline 'Biden rides on endorsements from former Republican rivals'. Print Edition | Subscribe