Following the long and tense democratic primary, Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), the Republican Party's presumptive presidential candidate, made appeals to those supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., NY) upset over her loss in the primary. But now Sen. Barack Obama's (D., Ill.) campaign is countering McCain's move by also crossing party lines for support.
A group of grass-roots Republicans and former Republicans have come forward to endorse Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. The group argues that McCain has become nothing more than an extension of President Bush's partisan policies, a legacy, the group says, the country cannot afford to extend.
Leading the group on a conference call Tuesday was former Republican Congress member from Iowa, Jim Leach; former Republican Senator from Rhode Island, Lincoln Chaffee; and former White House intelligence advisor Rita Hauser. Other prominent Republicans -- such as the Republican mayor of Fairbanks, Alaska, Jim Whitaker - are also expected to soon announce support for Obama.
Speaking on the call, Rep. Leach said, "There are difficult issues facing the next president. This is not the time for politics as usual." He said he endorses Obama due to the candidate's departure from pure partisan politics and quest to renew hope for the American Dream.
Chaffee addressed many of the reasons why he supports Obama's vision and not the present Republican Party, which he left in the summer of 2007. First and foremost, he said, comes fiscal responsibility. Chaffee lauds Obama's plans to back up all of his spending with revenue, noting President Bush was the first president to ever to offer tax cuts in a time of war.
The second major issue is the war in Iraq. Chaffee reminded Republicans that they used to endorse a foreign policy to avoid foreign entanglements. However, the largest issue for Chaffee would be credibility. Eight years of the Bush Administration "has seen American credibility shattered" in the world's eyes. Obama would immediately restore some credibility, Chaffee said. He called out the current administration in particular for lying about torture practices and for spying on Americans.
Hauser suggested that a McCain administration would be nothing more than an extension of Bush's. She called on Republicans to reject McCain and put their country first. Chaffee echoed those sentiments. He said McCain no longer represents the man he knew in the Senate who joined him on the vote against Bush's tax cuts in 2001, favored clean environment and opposed offshore drilling. He said: "McCain has lost his credibility."
The group would not discuss any plans the Obama campaign has to offer jobs in the administration to Republicans if Obama were to win. Chaffee did endorse the idea of Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.) as a running mate for Obama but recognized the choice is up to Obama.
There was also no word if any high-profile Republican would speak at the Democratic National Convention in Denver starting on Aug. 25. Former Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman (Independent Democrat, Conn.) has endorsed McCain and is expected to speak at the Republican convention in Minneapolis in September. Many Democrats remain angry over the appearance of former Senator Zell Miller of Georgia speaking at the 2004 convention in favor of Bush.
The group plans to operate a wWeb site affiliated with the Obama campaign. It would compare and contrast the positions of the two senators and allow visitors to chat and sign a petition showing public support for Obama. The Web site is expected to launch later this week.