(Reuters) – Nearly 100 Republican and independent leaders will endorse Democrat Joe Biden for president on Thursday, including one-time 2020 Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld and the former Republican governors of Michigan and New Jersey, people involved in the effort told Reuters.
The latest Republican-led effort to oppose the re-election of President Donald Trump also includes current and former Republicans in the key battleground state of Michigan that will help decide the outcome of the Nov. 3 election, the group’s members said.
Called ‘Republicans and Independents for Biden’, the group is headed by Christine Todd Whitman, a former Republican governor of New Jersey who has become one of Trump’s fiercest critics and who spoke at the recent Democratic National Convention in support of Biden.
“Biden is a decent man, he’s a steady man,” Whitman told Reuters. “Trump is trying to paint the world of Joe Biden as horrific – but that’s Trump’s America now.”
She accused Trump of betraying conservative values by undermining the rule of law and national security, lying, dividing Americans along racial lines, and failing the country in his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Weld, a former governor of Massachusetts, briefly and unsuccessfully challenged Trump in the 2020 Republican nominating contest. Another leading member of the group is Rick Snyder, a two-term governor of Michigan who left office in 2019.
Snyder decried what he called Trump’s divisive and bullying tactics, adding: “Having worked with Joe Biden and Donald Trump when I was Governor, I believe Biden is the clear choice to put our country back on a positive path.”
Whitman, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency under Republican President George W. Bush, said the group will target voters in a handful of battleground states, particularly suburban women and voters who do not like Trump but still hesitate to back Biden.
The group launches a website on Thursday and plans to campaign, buy advertisements and place opinion pieces in state and national media in support of Biden.
“Donald Trump’s daily assaults on our nation’s founding principles pose an existential threat to the future of the Republic,” the group will declare.
The impact of this unprecedented campaign by members of a political party to oppose one of their own running for re-election as president remains to be seen. Polls show that Trump still enjoys nearly 90 percent approval among the Republican rank and file.
Other anti-Trump groups include 43 Alumni for Biden, comprised of hundreds of officials who worked for Bush, the 43rd president; Former Republican National Security Officials for Biden; and The Lincoln Project, founded by Republican political operatives.
Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump’s campaign, said the president has unprecedented support among “real Republican voters.”
“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,” he added.
Biden’s campaign has been trying to build a broad coalition of liberals, moderate Republicans and independents. When he accepted the Democratic nomination at the convention in August, Biden said if elected he would be a president for all Americans, not just for the Democratic base.
Whitman’s group is affiliated with and will be funded by The Lincoln Project, which by the end of June had raised nearly $20 million, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Its members come from around the country but about a fifth are from Michigan, which Trump won by less than a percentage point in 2016. They include former U.S. Republican congressmen Joe Schwarz and Dave Trott, and former Republican state representatives Doug Hart and David Maturen.
(Reporting by Tim Reid, Editing by Soyoung Kim and Sonya Hepinstall)