Republicans who supported Barack ObamaBarack ObamaOvernight Tech: FCC chief gives states more control over internet subsidies | Dems urge Trump to veto bill blocking online privacy rules | House boosts its mobile security Overnight Defense: Pentagon considers more troops for Afghanistan | McCain, Graham won't back short-term funding | GOP defends Trump rules of engagement Paul Ryan sells out conservatives with healthcare surrender MORE in the 2008 election say they have few regrets.
The Hill contacted 17 prominent Republicans and members of “Republicans for Obama” groups that launched across the country two years ago. Most of them defended the president and indicated they might vote for him again in two years.
Some so-called “Obamacans” did not want to discuss their views on Obama. More than two-dozen Republicans who attracted media attention in 2008 for their support of Obama declined to comment on the issue.
One of them was former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), who served in the upper chamber as a Republican and is now running for governor as an Independent.
Obama attracted criticism this week from Frank Caprio, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Rhode Island, after the White House acknowledged that the president was not going to get involved in the race.
White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama’s decision was made “out of respect for his friend Lincoln Chafee.”
In 2008, Obama secured the support of a broad coalition of independent and Republican voters, propelling him to the presidency. Nine percent of registered Republicans voted for him, a 3 percent improvement from Sen. John KerryJohn KerryFBI Director Comey sought to reveal Russian election meddling last summer: report Congress, Trump need a united front to face down Iran One year ago today we declared ISIS atrocities as genocide MORE’s (D-Mass.) campaign four years earlier.
Despite Obama’s push to pass partisan bills through Congress, such as the stimulus package and healthcare reform, GOP officials are sticking by their choice.
Charles Fried, who served as solicitor general under President Reagan, said he doesn’t second-guess his vote for Obama.
“It’s very hard to get political credit for the terrible things that you’ve averted,” said Fried, a Harvard law professor. “[President George W.] Bush got no credit for there not being another attack on American soil, and Obama deserves it for avoiding an economic catastrophe.”
“It had to be done, and it’s tough to do,” said former Rep. Harris Fawell (R-Ill.) of the stimulus. “He inherited terrible economic circumstances. Republicans blame Obama for having brought this economic fiasco. I hate to say it, but the Republicans just blew the budget to smithereens.”
Former Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) echoed Fawell.
“We had to do something,” Pressler said. “If it was a different president with a different name, it would still be the same problem.”
On healthcare reform, Robert A.G. Monks, Maine’s former GOP chairman, said Republicans and Democrats have been trying to pass legislation for decades: “I remember what a hell of a hard time [President Harry] Truman had passing healthcare.”
Monks acknowledged there were problems with the bill, but says critics missed the bigger picture.
“It’s like the joke about the chimpanzee playing the piano, and someone complained he was out of tune. What’s critical is the chimpanzee played the piano! And it’s critical that America got a healthcare bill.”
He added that Obama “has integrity, he has intelligence, he has decency.”
Melissa Achtien of Indianapolis, who said she voted Republican for 20 years before the 2008 election, also still admires Obama.
“I think he’s intelligent,” she said. “I think he takes a long-term view.”
Colin Powell, who served as Bush’s secretary of State, recently said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “I think he is a transformational figure. Some people don't like what he's done in transformation, and it’s caused him some difficulty.”
Other Republicans admit they supported Obama simply because they didn’t like the Republican ticket.
“[Obama] was preferable to John McCainJohn McCainMcCain responds to North Korean criticism to calling Kim Jong-un 'crazy fat kid' Overnight Finance: Dems seek probe of acting SEC chief | Defense hawks say they won't back short-term funding | Senate seen as start point for Trump infrastructure plan | Dems want more money for IRS Overnight Defense: Pentagon considers more troops for Afghanistan | McCain, Graham won't back short-term funding | GOP defends Trump rules of engagement MORE, who is impulsive and not open to serious deliberation, which is a real problem for a president,” said former Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-Okla.). “I didn’t support Obama; I repudiated George W. Bush and John McCain.”
Fried also said the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, made voting Republican a deal-breaker: “I didn’t think any White House that had Sarah Palin as a vice president was capable of dealing with the complexity of a [financial] crisis.”
Political economist Larry Hunter, who helped craft the GOP’s “Contract With America” in 1994, is no longer a fan of the president. But he believes there is a silver lining for the GOP.
Hunter, who recently formed a group to rally opposition to the president’s healthcare law, said Obama had fulfilled all his expectations because his administration has caused “a remarkable rejuvenation of the conservative movement.”
Hunter endorsed Obama in 2008, arguing the Democrat’s potential to change U.S. foreign policy outweighed his threat to the domestic agenda. At the time, Hunter stated, “Obama promises a humbler engagement with our allies, while promising retaliation against any enemy who dares attack us. That’s what conservatism used to mean.”
Two years later, Hunter thinks the healthcare law is “disastrous,” but nevertheless does not regret his vote. “If McCain had won, there would have been no Tea Party movement, and you wouldn’t see the conservative movement gelling the way it is now.”
Next week, Republicans are expected to make significant gains in both the House and Senate. Reactions were mixed among Republicans who supported Obama, though most plan to vote for their local GOP candidates.
Edwards also plans to vote for Republicans on Nov. 2.
“Yes, absolutely,” he said when asked if he will support the GOP next week. “In some cases there are Republicans I would not support, but I don’t live in those states.”
Others said they were undecided.
Regardless of the midterm election results, Obama’s GOP supporters plan to remain loyal to him in 2012.
A number said they would definitely endorse him in 2012, including Monks, Achtien, Fawell and David Ruder, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Fried, Pressler, Edwards, Hunter and Arthurhultz say it depends who’s on the Republican ticket.
Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of former President Dwight Eisenhower who spoke at the Democratic convention in 2008, declined to comment. Others who didn’t respond to The Hill’s request for comment included former Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), former Rep. Claudine Schneider (R-R.I.), White House intelligence adviser Rita Hauser and economist David Friedman.
The Democratic National Committee also did not comment for this article.
Robert S. Erikson, professor of political science at Columbia University, said the effect of even a small number of these Republican supporters shifting away from Obama in 2012 could have a large impact on the election outcome.
“I don’t think [their loyalty] tells you anything about the next election, because the president could have some gain or have some erosion of that support. Even if he lost 5 percent of his support, that would be significant. There’s not a lot of change in people’s opinions over two or four years, but that small percentage of people who do shift are the ones who create the political change.”