Hillary Clinton Woos Republicans, Wins Over Meg Whitman

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Meg Whitman speaks at the HP Discover 2016 Conference in Las Vegas on June 8.
Photo: Jacob Kepler

Last week, the Democratic National Convention made a blatant appeal to Republicans horrified by Donald Trump by featuring a former Reagan staffer, a retired four-star general, and repeated reminders that someday your children will ask why you made a loutish reality-TV star leader of the free world. But that was just one aspect of the campaign’s effort to convince Republicans that they must vote for a woman they’ve despised for more than two decades. According to the New York Times, Clinton has been “aggressively courting Republican leaders” for months, and on Tuesday, her efforts paid off. Meg Whitman, Hewlett Packard CEO and prominent GOP fundraiser, announced that she is endorsing Clinton, and will even work to raise money for her.

“I will vote for Hillary, I will talk to my Republican friends about helping her, and I will donate to her campaign and try to raise money for her,” Whitman told the paper. She said Clinton called to ask for her endorsement last month, and she told her she’d make her decision after watching both conventions.

In sharp contrast to Republican officials who have spent the past few days condemning Trump’s attacks on a Gold Star family, while refusing to rescind their endorsement, Whitman was very clear about the threat she believes Trump poses to America. Per the Times:

Using remarkably blunt language, she argued that the election of Mr. Trump, whom she called “a dishonest demagogue,” could lead the country “on a very dangerous journey.” She noted that democracies had seldom lasted longer than a few hundred years and warned that those who say that “it can’t happen here” are being naïve.

Ms. Whitman also said she “absolutely” stood by her comments at a private gathering of Republican donors this year comparing Mr. Trump to Hitler and Mussolini, explaining that dictators often come to office through democratic means.

“Time and again history has shown that when demagogues have gotten power or come close to getting power, it usually does not end well,” Ms. Whitman said. She asserted that Mr. Trump had already “undermined the character of the nation.”

In addition to shoring up Clinton’s support among billionaires — including Mark Cuban, Michael Bloomberg, and Warren Buffett — Whitman’s endorsement may help Clinton tap into a new source of campaign funding. Whitman was one of the top fundraisers for Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign, and she was the national finance co-chair for Chris Christie’s presidential campaign this year. (She’s called his endorsement of Trump an “astonishing display of political opportunism.”)

As the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman points out, Whitman’s wealthy Republican friends wouldn’t even have to out themselves as Clinton supporters:

Running for president does require an obscene amount of money, but Clinton already has a strong fundraising lead over Trump. (And he seems entirely uninterested in traditional campaigning. Clinton, and super-pacs supporting her, have reserved $98 million in TV advertising, compared to $817,000 purchased by a Trump super-pac.) Whitman’s endorsement may be far more valuable as a move that emboldens other Never Trump Republicans. Earlier on Tuesday, President Obama called Republican leaders hypocritical for condemning Trump’s remarks but not the man himself, and the Times reported:

Republicans now say Mr. Trump’s obstinacy in addressing perhaps the gravest crisis of his campaign may trigger drastic defections within the party, and Republican lawmakers and strategists have begun to entertain abandoning him en masse.

It’s a lot easier to abandon Trump when the “masse” includes a business leader and top GOP fundraiser, not just a lone congressman and some former campaign aides.