early and often

‘Republicans for Obama’: Three Members and Counting

From left: James A. Leach and Lincoln ChafeePhotos: Getty Images

In a political climate where the GOP brand has been compared — by Republicans — to poorly selling dog food, Barack Obama is hoping to steal away as many disaffected Republicans as possible. To that end, the group Republicans for Obama was introduced yesterday with its founding members — former Rhode Island senator Lincoln Chafee, former Iowa congressman Jim Leach, and Rita Hauser, a fund-raiser for George W. Bush — calling for their party brethren to join them in “picking country over party in this election.” Such crossover endorsements aren’t new — and, in fact, the most high-profile defectors in recent memory have been Democrats. Back in 2004, Democratic Georgia senator Zell Miller not only switched sides and spoke at the Republican National Convention, he indulged in a common Republican fantasy by pretty much challenging Chris Matthews to a duel. And this year, kind-of-Democrat Joe Lieberman is quickly becoming the Zell Miller of 2008, without the craziness but with just as much enthusiasm. Whether Obama’s crossover group can create a real movement, or if it becomes simply a poor man’s Joe Lieberman, remains to be seen.

• Elizabeth Holmes and Amy Chozick write that “the departure” of the three Republicans “underscores the GOP’s struggle to define itself in the shadow of an unpopular president and in the wake of defeat in the 2006 midterm election.” [WSJ]

• Mark Hemingway notes that “neither Leach nor Chafee is particularly known for his staunch conservatism; they’re members of one of the least popular species in the political zoo: RINOs, or Republicans in Name Only.” Anyway, there is “scant evidence” that “Obama can bring the parties together.” [National Review]

• David Nather says the announcement of Republicans for Obama “really served as a reminder of how thin those party crossover groups actually are.” The problem with these groups is that “the ‘Democrats’ or ‘Republicans’ who start them aren’t exactly mainstream spokespeople for their party.” Until a real partisan defects over to the other side, “the crossover groups tell us about as much about Obama and McCain as they have about past presidential candidates: nothing.” [CQ Politics]

• Andrew Sullivan shares the rationale of the group: a fear that McCain’s presidency could bring “[m]ore debt, more war and more aggression.” And though “Obama is no fiscal tightwad…the CBO scores his proposals as less damaging to fiscal balance than McCain’s.” [Atlantic]

• Ari Berman writes that the “impact this group will have remains to be seen.” Though Obama performed well in Republican areas in the primaries, “partisanship has hardened since the primary has ended.” However, “[i]t only takes a few points here or there to alter the election.” [Nation]

• Ari Melber points out that when Republicans downplay Obama’s record of bipartisanship, they focus on his liberal voting record. But “[w]hen candidates tout bipartisan credentials…the point is usually to stress an ability to work with and listen to other elected officials — not to stop voting on the platform outlined by a politician’s campaign or party.” [Washington Independent]

• Chuck Todd and friends contend that though “Obama may have some Republicans in his camp…they aren’t doing attack-dog politics like Lieberman’s doing for McCain.” [First Read/MSNBC]

• Lisa Shiffren calls Republicans for Obama a “laughingstock” and suggests McCain set up “Hillary Supporters for McCain” immediately, chaired by Geraldine Ferraro. [Corner/National Review]

• Kevin Drum sees the Republicans for Obama trend as “1980 in reverse” and wonders if Obama “can use this discontent to not only get elected, but to create as many converts to liberal principles as Reagan did to conservative ones.” [Political Animal/Washington Monthly] —Dan Amira

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.

‘Republicans for Obama’: Three Members and Counting