Politics

Anti-Trump Republicans Begin Lining Up Behind Clinton

"This is about saving the Republican Party"

With Donald Trump as the party standard-bearer this November, many Republicans are pondering the unthinkable - supporting Hillary Clinton. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans unable to countenance Donald Trump as the next commander in chief are increasingly lining up behind Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, saying they are putting patriotism above party.  

The roster of sudden converts ranges from retiring pols opposed to enabling a first-time candidate “deeply flawed in endless ways” to public officials who have championed conservative values since the early 1980s.  

On Tuesday, the first sitting GOP congressman, Richard Hanna of New York, announced he would vote for Clinton.  

[ Hanna Is First Congressional Republican to Say He'll Vote for Clinton ]  

George W. Bush administration vets John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes have not only broken ranks out of disgust with Trump, they are actively recruiting others to get on board with Clinton — while still voting for GOP candidates further down the ballot.  

“His proposal to fortress America and design our foreign policy around isolationism is utterly reckless,” Stubbs warned.  

The pair traveled last week to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to build upon the nascent “Republicans for Clinton ” campaign.  

Much like fellow defector, former South Dakota Sen. Larry Pressler , both Stubbs and Reyes said working to return a Clinton to the White House would have been inconceivable were it not for the “existential threat” Trump poses.  

[ Larry Pressler’s Long, Strange Trip to the DNC ]  

“The Republican Party, at that point, will have been eaten away by the parasites,” Reyes said of a Trump win in November.  

Stubbs said he met Reyes while working in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative under President George W. Bush.  

“I don’t think either one of us has done anything political since then,” Stubbs said.  

“We were happily retired from politics,” Reyes chimed in.  

Reyes said he left government service about 10 years ago; he’s worked for Google, YouTube and Tesla Motors in the intervening decade. Stubbs started a consulting firm, Romulus Global Issues Management, in 2007 and remains connected to the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.  

As this year's bruising GOP primaries rolled on and other candidates kept dropping out, the two said they came to realize the seriousness of the situation.  

[ Trump Crowned GOP Nominee, Vows to ‘Win in November’ ]  

“We kind of got called back into this … because the GOP leadership started listening to very angry, very vocal voices,” Reyes said.  

For Stubbs, backing Clinton is all about “prioritizing.”  

He said he feels the former secretary of state is better equipped to handle “stability” and “global security” than Trump — citing her record of working across party lines while in the Senate as proof that Clinton could find common ground with Republican lawmakers on critical issues.  

“Trump is not interested in working with anyone. Except himself, apparently,” Stubbs said.  

The duo is hardly alone in that calculus.  

Richard Hanna, a three-term Republican congressman retiring this year, Tuesday declared his intention to cross party lines on Election Day.  

“While I disagree with her on many issues, I will vote for Mrs. Clinton. I will be hopeful and resolute in my belief that being a good American who loves his country is far more important than parties or winning and losing,” he wrote in an op-ed.

Sally Bradshaw, a former adviser to Trump challenger Jeb Bush, recently cut ties with the GOP , telling CNN she would vote for Clinton if things come down to the wire in Florida. Other prominent party members, including operatives dating back to the Reagan era, have come out for Clinton.  

Some notable Republicans, including former presidential candidates Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have declined to endorse Trump but say they have no plans to vote for his Democratic opponent.  

[ Ted Cruz Buries the Hatchet — In Donald Trump's Back ]  

Stubbs estimated that roughly 4 percent of Republicans migrated to Clinton once Trump locked up the nomination.  

His goal is to help Clinton peel off roughly 10 percent of Republican voters, which he views as “a very achievable number.”  

“If you are an immigrant, or a businessman … if you understand the global economy, then I think you are in play,” he said.  

Part of the outreach, Reyes said, is overcoming the “intrinsic, emotional response” triggered whenever lifelong Republicans hear the name Clinton.  

“How do you vote for a candidate that you’ve been trained to not like for decades?” Stubbs said to explain the immediate apprehension.    

Reyes acknowledged bumping up against a few skeptics during the “hundreds” of conversations he said he’s had with Republicans unsure of what to make of the current political landscape.  

The idea of joining Clinton is gaining traction. “I’ve heard, ‘I can’t go there yet,’” Reyes shared. “Nobody has said, ‘I can’t go there at all.’”  

While he is fully committed to helping Clinton clinch the 10 percent of the GOP vote that he believes could go Democratic this fall — that level of support, Stubbs predicted, would give her “a real constituency to engage with, work with and respond to” — Stubbs was adamant about also propping up House and Senate Republicans.  

[ The Down-Ballot Shuffle, A Ticket-Splitting Revival ]  

Stubbs is encouraging all Republicans for Clinton activists to engage in ballot splitting, stressing that it’s every party member's job to bolster GOP pols who’ve publicly clashed with Trump in the policy arena.  

The one thing Stubbs is not worried about is turning this uncharacteristic crusade into a lucrative career.  

“We’re not interested in taking money from Democrats. This is about saving the Republican Party,” he said.  

Contact Rojas at warrenrojas@rollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @WARojas.

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