Hundreds of former aides to the last three GOP presidential nominees before Donald Trump took the party’s mantle are rejecting his campaign and voting for the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, this fall.
On Thursday, more than 230 former officials from the George W Bush administration – including some from Cabinet-level positions – publicly endorsed Mr Biden. Ex-campaign and Senate staffers for the late Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the 2008 and 2012 GOP presidential nominees, respectively, have also thrown their public support behind the former Democratic vice president.
Among Mr Biden’s endorsers from Mr Bush’s camp were such figures as former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and former Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman.
The Bush staffers indicated in a press release on Thursday that Mr Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as Mr Biden’s superior competence and character, informed their decision to go public with their endorsements.
“While we all may have our differences of opinion on specific policy matters with the Democratic Party, we firmly believe that Joe Biden can bring us together to help heal the divisions in our country and find solutions to our problems,” said former senior Bush aide Suzy DeFrancis.
“Donald Trump has failed to keep Americans safe during this pandemic, but Joe Biden will listen to our scientists and doctors when making life or death decisions. With lives and livelihoods at stake, our nation needs a leader with the experience, competence and character of Joe Biden,” Ms DeFrancis said.
The former staffers to Mr Romney, the only Senate Republican to vote to remove Mr Trump from office during his impeachment trial this February, penned an open letter, first obtained by Politico, explaining their disavowal of the current president.
The group, organised under the name “Romney Alumni for Biden,” said Mr Trump’s words and actions as president do not represent the ethos of the GOP they previously served.
“What unites us now is a deep conviction that four more years of a Trump presidency will morally bankrupt this country, irreparably damage our democracy, and permanently transform the Republican Party into a toxic personality cult,” the group wrote in a letter published on Romney4Biden.com.
“We can’t sit by and allow that to happen,” wrote the 34 former Romney campaign staffers, who served in positions ranging from policy to event planning.
On Wednesday, a group of more than 100 “McCain alumni for Joe Biden” posted a statement explaining that Mr Trump’s “lack of competent leadership, his efforts to aggravate rather than bridge divisions among Americans, and his failure to uphold American values” have prevented them from voting for him.
The former McCain aides – from three former congressional chiefs of staff to his 2008 presidential campaign communications director to a half-dozen interns – said they will instead vote for Mr Biden.
“We trust that as President, Joe Biden will lead an urgent, comprehensive national effort to contain the COVID pandemic. We trust he will call on Americans to remember our common interests and responsibilities, and not worsen the grievances that have polarized our politics. And we trust that he will defend American interests and values from all enemies, foreign and domestic,” they wrote in the signed statement.
It’s unclear exactly how much such a forceful denial of Mr Trump from establishment figures’ former aides will affect the president’s re-election campaign as he is slated to speak on Thursday, the final night of the Republican National Convention.
Mr Trump has frequently singled out all three of Mr Bush, Mr McCain and Mr Romney for criticism, even snubbing Mr McCain during a national defence bill signing as the Arizona senator was dying from brain cancer.
The president ran on an anti-establishment platform in 2016 in which his supporters enthusiastically urged him to “drain the swamp” of career politicians, lobbyists, and politicos just like the Republican ones who have endorsed Mr Biden this week.
When media outlets reported earlier this year that Mr Bush and Mr Romney were unlikely to cast votes for Mr Trump this November, the president appeared to relish the confrontation.
“The establishment still hasn’t learned the biggest lesson from 2016 – never underestimate the President’s ability to connect with the American people,” his campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso said in a statement to The Independent in June.
“No amount of establishment grandstanding from the swamp will deter President Trump’s historic movement,” Mr Farnaso said.
Mr Biden maintains a clear advantage in national polling over Mr Trump, with his margin in the RealClearPolitics average standing at 7.1 per cent over the last couple weeks.
Some polls in key swing states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, however, have shown tighter margins.