More than 150 former aides and staffers to the Republican Party’s last three standard-bearers – former president George W. Bush and senators John McCain and Mitt Romney – are throwing their support behind Joe Biden, they announced on Thursday.
Each of the three political alumni groups, all acting as separate organisations, released statements condemning US President Donald Trump and, at times, denouncing his prior feuds with their former bosses.
The three leaders, all lifelong conservatives, have each had their own well-documented past with the current President.
“Working for John McCain was an honour, and his example of public service remains a lasting influence on us. His motto – ‘country first’ – and his frequent call on Americans to serve causes greater than our self-interest were not empty slogans like so much of our politics today. They were the creed by which he lived and he urged us to do the same. It is in that spirit that we are supporting his friend, Joe Biden,” a statement from the McCain alumni group read.
The group is made up of more than 100 former staffers from Mr McCain’s nearly 35-year political career, ranging from junior aides to chiefs of staff.
Speaking to The New York Times, Mark Salter, Mr McCain’s longtime chief aide and speechwriter who helped organise the effort, said that removing Mr Trump from office was more of a focus than differences they had with Biden or the Democratic Party.
“We have different views of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party platform – most of us will disagree with a fair amount of it – but we all agree that getting Donald Trump out of office is clearly in the national interest,” he said.
“These are unusual times, and this is not an easy decision for Republicans to make,” the group’s statement said, “but we are heartened by Joe Biden’s history of bipartisanship.”
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Mr McCain and Mr Trump’s feud began during the 2016 Republican presidential primary, but continued into the President’s first term, when the two clashed repeatedly in the Senate.
Mr Trump was notably excluded from Mr McCain’s 2018 funeral, though Vice President Mike Pence was invited to speak when the Arizona politician lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda.
Mr Biden and Mr McCain, meanwhile, had a decades-long friendship that went beyond the Senate floor. When Mr McCain was in his final months of life, he and his closest advisers were particularly touched that Mr Biden travelled to his Arizona cabin to see his friend in person, the Times reported.
Mr Salter told the paper he did not reach out to McCain family members to be included on the list, instead confining their outreach to former staffers.
The Romney campaign alumni, like McCain, actively fought against Biden in the 2008 and 2012 elections, when he was on the vice presidential ticket.
Now, a group of 34 former Romney staffers are backing “a man we once worked to defeat”.
On Thursday, the group, called “Romney Alumni for Biden,” wrote on their new website, “As lifelong Republicans, we came to this conclusion in different ways and at different times. Some of us voted for Trump in 2016, excited for a no-nonsense political outsider to take on the Washington status quo. Many others never supported him to begin with, shocked that a party committed to the ideals of personal responsibility and patriotic duty would nominate an unhinged narcissist that routinely conflates loyalty to himself with love for country.”
The group also cited Mr Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying: “We desperately need a president that’s laser-focused on putting the nation’s needs ahead of his own.”
Addressing their policy disagreements with Mr Biden and the Democratic Party, the group wrote that those were not a problem.
“Of course, we don’t agree with Joe Biden on every policy. That’s OK. The differences in our political perspectives come from places of honest disagreement and genuine concern. That’s the beauty of America.”
The group does not have the explicit backing of Mr Romney himself, though the Utah Republican has not been shy about his differences with the President, going as far as to vote to convict him during the Senate impeachment trial earlier this year.
A spokesperson for Mr Romney did not respond to The Post’s request for comment on his former staffers’ effort.
Alumni of the George W. Bush administration also decided to speak out Thursday, releasing a letter signed by over 20 former staffers including former commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Bush White House domestic policy adviser Sally Canfield, former ambassador James Glassman and former treasurer Rosario Marin.
The letter, first obtained by Politico, touts Mr Biden’s character and his ability to lead the country out of the crisis it is facing with the coronavirus pandemic.
“We need Joe Biden to restore character, integrity and decency to the White House. These principles are the cornerstone needed to rebuild a dignified, secure, resilient country.
“In order to emerge strong and ready to tackle the challenges before us, we must act. We must step up, get out of our comfort zone, and vote for Joe Biden. It is time for us to have initiative in our communities and networks to stand up for character, integrity, decency, and leadership,” the letter reads.
The group also praised Mr Biden for his bipartisan efforts during his time in the Senate.
“Joe Biden has proven himself over years of public service. We have seen him respectfully reach across the aisle, consider a different point of view and make a thoughtful decision to benefit the nation.”
Mr Bush has been absent from the 2020 presidential race and is not featured in the 2020 Republican National Convention.
His spokesperson continues to issue the same statement when reached with queries on the former president’s endorsement plans, reiterating he “is retired from presidential politics”.
When Mr Trump famously trounced former president Bush’s younger brother, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, in their bitter and raucous 2016 GOP primary fight, the former president declined to endorse the eventual Republican nominee. Their father, former president George H.W. Bush, likewise declined to endorse.
Reached for comment on the endorsements, Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh told The Post, “Joe Biden has been a failure in the Washington Swamp for a half century, so no one should be surprised when Swamp creatures gather to protect one of their own.
“President Trump has unprecedented support – over 95 per cent – among real Republican voters and is also making strong inroads in Biden’s core Democrat constituencies, like Black Americans, Latinos and union members. President Trump’s record of success for all Americans will carry him to victory in November.”
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and is reproduced here with permission