"Republicans for Obama" launches Tuesday

Jacob Turcotte

Even though the man is on vacation, the news from the Obama campaign keeps on coming.

It’s common for a campaign to announce the formation of a group from the opposing party banding together to support their candidate.

And it always makes for good press because it appears counter-intuitive. “How can people from the same party endorse the other candidate? Their own party’s candidate must be horrible!”

That’s the game. Make it appear that one candidate is so awful that people who would normally pledge allegiance are jumping overboard.

It happens every campaign. Perhaps you remember Democrats for Bush four years ago. Or Republicans for Kerry. Here’s a gem – still on the web and looking its age, an old Republicans for Bill Clinton site. And a campaign can always get press out of it – especially if there are prominent individuals involved.

It happened again this morning. And as Ben Smith over at Politico astutely points out, the timing isn’t so surprising either:

One of the challenges of the week for Chicago is finding a way to control the news cycle without the candidate. Today’s answer: “Republicans for Obama.”

Former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach, former Bush foreign policy advisor Rita Hauser, and former US Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island announced their support of Obama and the formation of “Republicans for Obama.”

The group, which according to one website seems to already exist, announced they will launch a new website this week.

Why jump the party line?

Chafee, in the morning conference call announcing the group, said McCain just wasn’t the same old McCain anymore:

“I served with McCain and we were the only two Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts,” said Chafee, referring to a Senate vote in 2001. “He says now he would make them permanent. It’s a different John McCain.”

But what about the point that Chafee isn’t a Republican anymore? He switched parties earlier this year to vote for Obama in his state’s presidential primary.

“Until I voted for Sen. Obama, I had never voted for a Democrat so I think my Republican credentials are sincere,” Chaffee said.

As for Leach, the former Congressman said it was time for a change.

Barack Obama’s platform is a call for change,” said Leach. “But the change that he so gracefully articulating is more renewal than departure.”

Over on the McCain team they sensed a different kind of irony. Campaign spokesperson Taylor Griffin emailed this response:

“It’s ironic that Barack Obama, who has the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate, would be reaching out to Republicans. His policies and his record, while they may be popular with liberals, are out of step with Republicans and with mainstream America.”

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