Politics

Larry Pressler’s Long, Strange Trip to the DNC

Former Republican can’t see Donald Trump as president

Former South Dakota Sen. Larry Pressler poses for a picture in his home office in Washington, D.C. (Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Retired Sen. Larry Pressler is so worried about the future of his former party under Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, he’s making the rounds in Philadelphia to help the other side retain the White House.  

“I’m just afraid Trump’s gonna win unless Hillary’s campaign wakes up,” the Republican-turned-independent said of his inaugural trip to the Democratic National Convention .  

The veteran House and Senate lawmaker arrived in the City of Brotherly Love on Wednesday, mapping out plans to confer with fellow supporters of bipartisan causes, recruit allies interested in establishing a viable third party in time for the 2020 elections, and perhaps catch up with legislative pals.  

[ Larry Pressler’s Independent Streak ]  

“My personal friend Harry Reid is speaking at 7 p.m., so I’ll be there for that,” the newly credentialed conventioneer shared.  

Pressler said he’s caught some flak from former colleagues for visiting the Democratic convention (citing mostly “negative” feedback. Though, oddly, “most won't say they are for Trump,” he said). But he’s more interested in securing the country’s future than clinging to the past.  

[ The Latest From the Democratic Convention ]  

Having watched the parade of speakers dispatched to Cleveland to make the case for Trump, Pressler remains unimpressed by the mercurial candidate.  

“We just didn’t get to the real issues of free trade. We just didn’t get to the real issues of gun control,” he said.  

And therein, he said, lies Clinton’s opportunity to recast this wildly unconventional race.  

[ Full Coverage of the Democratic National Convention ]  

“Hillary can win on the issues. But I just sense that that’s not happening,” Pressler said.  

He’s hoping her campaign will draw in undecided voters over the next few months by deploying “surrogate speakers to address specific groups.”  

Drilling down on the federal budget deficit, Pressler suggested, should appeal to serious voters across the political spectrum.  

“There’s really a lot of work to be done on what we’re going to leave behind,” he said.  

What Clinton must not do, he said, is try to out-trash talk Trump, whom Pressler portrayed as a master at “name calling.”  

Come November, Pressler plans to cast his vote for the first female presidential nominee put forth by a major political party.  

“I’m going to vote for Hillary,” he confirmed.  

But he refused to close the door on ever returning to the GOP fold.  

“If there were a Republican moderate offered in the future, I would consider it,” Pressler said. “But I just don’t see it.”  

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

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