Appearing in an Instagram live chat with soccer star Megan Rapinoe on April 30, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden made a spontaneous, vague statement about how he’s been speaking to a lot of Republicans, including former colleagues, who are calling and saying ‘Joe, if you win, we’re gonna help.
Then he showed his hand Matter of fact, there’s some major Republicans who are already forming Republicans for Biden, the former vice president said. Major officeholders.
The comment hardly received any attention at the time. But in declaring it, Biden ended up tipping off the earliest stages of a brewing effort that’s starting to get underway in certain Republican circles behind-the-scenes.
Interviews with several of the most prominent NeverTrump Republicans reveal that for now, the nascent effort is loosely defined and could ultimately take a variety of forms. But preliminary talks about messaging, engagement, leadership, and rollout are starting to be broadly sketched out, according to sources directly familiar with the matter. And the talks have happened more frequently as Biden moves solidly into general election mode.
It is literally just forming, one former top Republican Party official involved with the preliminary discussions. I’ve had several conversations with people who have approached me. It’s going to take off, it’s going to happen. The question is to what degree and form it does, the source, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about private discussions, said.
You don’t want something like this out on the street before it needs to be, the GOP source added. It just makes it much harder to do.
The contours of a developing Republicans for Biden movement are indeed fluid, with longtime operatives and former party loyalists mixed on what a final product would look like and when it might come into fruition. The movement behind-the-scenes is in contrast to the very public effort to unite the left, but matches Biden’s own professed fondness for working with Republicans.
When presented with Biden’s comments, GOP sources interviewed referenced two main possibilities: an external group that would work on his behalf as a political action committee similar to other Democratic-led outside groups that could theoretically clear a pathway for others to join; or an internal operation within Biden’s campaign, with one or more recognizable Republican figures joining as the public face.
A second source well-placed in Republican circles who has had conversations with senior Biden advisers in recent weeks said that any mounting effort would most likely come from within the campaign’s vast network.
My impression is the official one will be part of the campaign, the Republican source said, referencing the apparent Republicans for Biden group Biden mentioned himself.
Among the GOP’s more ardent anti-Trump faction, several names came up in conversation when asked who could theoretically have a role in an outside political entity, which would not be allowed under campaign-finance laws to coordinate with the campaign directly. Those names include former Sen. Jeff Flake, Wisconsin-based political analyst Charlie Sykes, conservative media giant Bill Kristol, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, longtime campaign operative Steve Schmidt, former Rep. David Jolly (R-FL), and columnist Mona Charen, among others.
Meanwhile, one name in particular has been floated as a choice to help give legs to such an effort from the inside, former Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The source who has spoken to top Biden allies about a number of topics said there has been discussion in Bidenworld about Kasich, a leading NeverTrump voice, who joined as a CNN analyst after leaving office in January 2019.
A senior Kasich strategist denied any discussions.
It’s done, but the reason it’s not common is there are few people willing to do that, longtime Democratic campaign strategist Joe Trippi said about the possibility of a Republican joining a Democrat’s campaign in this capacity, or vice versa. It’s not rare on the Biden campaign’s part. You just don’t usually have that many prominent people usually willing to cross lines in the middle of a presidential campaign.
But when presented with both options, Trippi said the campaign would most likely want outside and internal GOP help if available. If you’re the Biden campaign, you want both those things to happen, he said. I don’t think it’s either or.
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign said, in part, Vice President Biden is running for president to unite our country and rebuild the soul of the nation, and to accomplish that we need to bring together Americans from across the political spectrum to build the broadest possible coalition to defeat Donald Trump.
As we move into the general election, we’re going to continue to ramp up our outreach to Americans of all political stripes including the many disaffected Republicans who are horrified by Trump’s historic mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis. The campaign declined to elaborate on Biden’s own prior statement about a Republicans for Biden group forming.
Since securing near-instant party unity following his sweeping victory in South Carolina, Biden’s campaign has been focused on weaving the values of progressive leaders into their emerging platform. After Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), his final primary opponent and longtime Senate friend, departed from the race and endorsed him last month, the former rivals announced the formation of several task forces as a way to prioritize progressive issues.