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Wednesday, July 1, 2020
EXCLUSIVE: Romney Campaign Veterans Turn on Trump and GOP, Back Biden
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks to media as he arrives for a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March, 12, 2020, on the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) **FILE** Stephen Dinan
Veterans of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign are eyeing an alliance with Joseph R. Biden, looking to make a splash in announcing they have turned their backs on the Republican Party this year and will support the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee instead.
Micah Spangler, who was a staffer in southern Florida for the Republican Party during the race, told fellow campaign veterans in emails Friday and over the weekend that he is working with the Biden team “to cultivate a network of Romney alums that want to help elect Joe in November.”
In a separate email to The Washington Times, he said he has received an outpouring of support over the first few days but wouldn’t disclose what motivated him to flip.
“Dozens and dozens of Romney 2012 staffers have ‘signed up’ — and there’s plenty more outreach to do,” he said in the email.
But some Romney campaign folks were indignant at the idea that anyone would leap from Mr. Romney to Mr. Biden, who as vice president was on the ticket in 2012 running against Mr. Romney.
“I wish my former Romney teammates no personal ill-will. But I question the patriotism and wisdom of supporting Joe Biden, who would be a cultural and economic disaster for the country,” said Brett Doster, who was a senior adviser for Mr. Romney’s Florida effort in 2012. “The Biden leftists can’t wait to flush free markets, the Constitution and unborn babies all down the same socialist sewage pipe.”
Andrew M. Bonderud, a lawyer who worked on the Romney campaign in Florida, said he didn’t remember Mr. Spangler but figured he was “probably a bit of an opportunist,” looking to capitalize on the possibility of a Biden victory.
“I think it’s madness,” he said. “I suspect it’s going to have a small audience. Most of the people with whom I worked on the Romney campaign are supporting Trump.”
What the effort does, though, is put Mr. Romney in a tricky spot.
He was the 2012 Republican nominee who lost his bid to unseat President Obama in an election his party thought was winnable.
He won a Senate seat from Utah in 2018 and in February became the first senator in history to vote to convict and remove a president of his own party, siding with Democrats in their impeachment effort.
He has been public about withholding support from President Trump in 2016 and said he wrote in his wife, Ann, on his ballot.
His office didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment, including whether he disavowed the push to use his name to back Mr. Biden.
It’s unlikely the Romney-to-Biden effort will sway self-identified Republicans. Gallup’s latest polling shows the president has 85% approval in his party, though that is down from 92% in early May.
Mr. Romney had 96% support of Republicans in Gallup’s final survey before the 2012 election.
A more likely target for the Romney flippers are independents or any voters who identified as Republican a decade ago but no longer do.
It’s rare, but not unheard of, for a sitting member of Congress to support the opposing party’s nominee.
Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, did so in 2004 and even spoke at the Republican National Convention to endorse President George W. Bush.
Some of Mr. Romney’s top political advisers reached by The Times said they hadn’t been contacted by the pro-Biden effort.
Mr. Trump has run hot and cold on Mr. Romney, mocking him for his 2012 loss, backing him for his 2018 Senate run and labeling him a “loser” as Mr. Romney’s criticism intensified this year.
The Biden campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Spangler is now director of advocacy at the United Nations Association.
During the 2012 campaign, the Republican Party of Florida paid him as part of the joint victory effort, beginning in July. He earned $2,500 a month, according to Federal Election Commission spending records.
The Washington Times asked him what spurred his turn away from the Republican Party and whether it was related to Mr. Trump, but he did not respond to those questions. Instead, he celebrated the reaction he said he has received.
“At first, I honestly wasn’t sure what sort of responses (if any) I’d receive but over the last 72 hours, there’s been an outpouring of support across all sectors of the campaign,” he wrote.