Clinton Republicans a 2016 trend

Meet the Clinton Republicans. 

Just as Reagan Democrats emerged three decades ago to catapult Ronald Reagan to the White House, a crop of unexpected cross-party supporters has surfaced during this election cycle.

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And they are helping Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally MORE.

The steady trickle of Republicans coming out for Clinton have boosted her campaign and drawn attention to a divided GOP.

“Remember that term ‘Reagan Democrat?’” Adam Parkhomenko, the founder of the super-PAC Ready for Hillary wrote in a post on Twitter over the weekend. “Hearing a lot of ‘Clinton Republican’ nowadays.” 

Republicans for Clinton include top GOP fundraiser and former tech executive Meg Whitman, former Michigan governor William Milliken, former MGM CEO and GOP donor Harry Sloan and retiring Rep. Richard Hanna (N.Y.). 

A Clinton aide said each defection could cause a domino effect of sorts, allowing for other rank-and-file Republicans to endorse Clinton.

And one Clinton ally noted that the GOP diaspora has less to do with an affection among GOP voters for Clinton, and more about distaste for Trump.

“We don’t have to do much,” the ally said. “Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE is doing all the work for us.” 

Clinton has sought to take advantage of the issue.

During the Democratic National Convention, she seized on Republican themes and values. 

”We have the most powerful military,” she said. “The most innovative entrepreneurs. The most enduring values — freedom and equality, justice and opportunity. We should be so proud that these words are associated with us. That when people hear them, they hear America.”

The Clinton campaign is running an ad that features criticisms of Trump from former Republican office holders and conservative commentators — a clear effort to win over GOP voters.  

In a recent address, Clinton also argued that Trump was “unfit” to be president and couldn’t be trusted with the nuclear codes. 

Republican strategist Ron Bonjean, who hasn't endorsed Trump yet, never thought he’d see the day when solid-red Republicans were committing to Clinton. But he says Trump has pushed some in his party over the edge. 

“He hasn't made the case that he will take the governance part seriously,” Bonjean said.

He and other Republicans still think there’s a chance that Trump can stop the bleeding, however.

“If he begins to right the ship and focuses fire on Hillary Clinton instead of interparty fighting or picking on Gold Star families, that may convince some Republicans to give him a chance,” he said.  

Republicans have crossed the aisle to vote for Democratic presidential candidates in the past.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed President Obama days before his 2008 election over Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain#JohnMcCainDay trends on Trump's 73rd birthday #JohnMcCainDay trends on Trump's 73rd birthday New poll finds little GOP support for spending cuts to specific federal programs MORE (R-Ariz.).

So did former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who this year is running as the vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian Party ticket.

While Clinton moved to the left in the Democratic primary as she was challenged by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersConfused by polls? Watch early primary states — not national numbers Confused by polls? Watch early primary states — not national numbers Biden leads in early voting states, followed by Warren, Sanders: poll MORE (I-Vt.), she has a centrist reputation and a history of working with Republicans in Congress.

On issues of foreign policy and national security, she is seen as a hawk, given her support for the Iraq War. She was also an advocate for muscular action against Libya and Syria within the Obama administration.

Such positions could be attractive to Republican voters, particularly given Trump’s criticism of GOP foreign policy leaders — including former President George W. Bush.

Nonetheless, historians say it’s unclear how many Republicans will jump ship and whether the Democratic nominee will be able keep their support in the long term. 

Many of those in the GOP backing Clinton have been open about the fact that they are doing so because of Trump, not out of affection for the Democrat.

“We will see how much of a shift there is,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. 

Katherine Jellison, a professor of history at Ohio University, predicts that Clinton’s support from Republicans will be short-lived.

“We may see it one election cycle and then never see it again, since it’s largely a reaction against Donald Trump,” she said.  

Bonjean also said he doesn’t see a trend.

“I don't think Republicans are thinking she'll be a phenomenal president but ... these Republicans who are breaking away from Trump would rather have the devil they know than the devil they don't know."

It’s also not clear whether rank-and-file Republicans will follow in the footsteps of office holders who have backed Clinton — especially with bigger-name Republicans such as Powell, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others not offering an endorsement so far.

“While we have seen some high profile Republican elites who have said they would vote Democratic, it’s unclear how many voters will switch from red to blue especially in such a polarized age,” Zelizer said. “The electorate is much more rigid than it was even in the 1980s, so unclear how many will vote for her as opposed to not voting at all.”