The Lincoln Project, Other Anti-Trump Efforts Endorse Biden Pollsters and political scientists question how much of an impact — if any — these GOP critics might have on President Trump's fate in November.
NPR logo

Republican Groups Backing Biden Get Attention. Their Impact On Voters Is Less Clear

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/889082988/889842809" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Republican Groups Backing Biden Get Attention. Their Impact On Voters Is Less Clear

Republican Groups Backing Biden Get Attention. Their Impact On Voters Is Less Clear

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/889082988/889842809" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A number of outspoken conservatives have decided they are not voting for the Republican Party's nominee this November. In fact, some are even defecting to Joe Biden. Their decision is getting a lot of attention. But, really, how much of an impact will they have on the election? NPR's Asma Khalid reports.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: John Farner worked in the George W. Bush administration.

JOHN FARNER: I have been a Republican all of my life.

KHALID: But he was skeptical when he saw Donald Trump step onto the Republican stage.

FARNER: Yeah, I chose not to vote in 2016.

KHALID: But this year, he says, is different. It's not enough, in his view, just to abstain.

FARNER: More than 130,000 Americans are dead, and over 30 million are unemployed. That's just unacceptable right now. And we continue to look to the White House for leadership that we are not getting.

KHALID: The last 3 1/2 years have made it clear that, this time, he needs to pick a side. And so he's joined up with a couple hundred other former Bush officials to create a group called 43 Alumni for Biden. It's a reference to the fact that Bush was the 43rd president. And it's not the only group. Former Mitt Romney campaign alums are also organizing an effort to support Biden, and some Republican strategists have formed a super PAC called the Lincoln Project that routinely trolls the president with ads.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Hey, Donald. Your campaign manager told you a million fans wanted to come to your first big rally. Turnout in Tulsa? A dud. You've probably heard this before, but it was smaller than we expected.

KHALID: Sarah Lenti is the executive director of the Lincoln Project.

SARAH LENTI: The goal is to talk to these voters out in target states in ways that helps give them cover, helps make it OK for them this cycle to either sit it out or actually cross the line and vote for Biden.

JULIA AZARI: You know, how many voters does that speak to?

KHALID: That's Julia Azari. She's a professor at Marquette University.

AZARI: The Republican Party, in some very meaningful ways, has become Trump's party.

KHALID: Trump has called his conservative critics losers, and he faces very little dissent among congressional Republicans. Polling has shown that the vast majority of Republicans, nationally, have already decided they're voting for Trump this November.

AZARI: He's remained really popular with self-identified Republicans. What's harder to track is, like, who is a self-identified Republican who has stopped identifying that way within the mass electorate?

KHALID: In other words, the reason Trump looks so popular with the GOP is because some voters no longer identify as Republican. In the last few years, white college-educated voters especially have begun moving away from the party. Jon McHenry is a Republican pollster with North Star Opinion Research.

JON MCHENRY: There's a decent chunk of those white college-educated voters who support a lot of the policies - they support the tax cuts - but, you know, they wouldn't be crazy about President Trump demanding an apology for Bubba Wallace this week.

KHALID: That's the Black NASCAR driver that Trump singled out on Twitter this week. McHenry says if we get into policy debates, white college-educated voters will be forced to make a choice between policy and tone. But still, he's skeptical that these Republican-for-Biden efforts are going to have much of an impact. There just aren't a lot of persuadable voters.

MCHENRY: And you're not going to knock President Trump from, say, 95% of Republicans down to 85% of Republicans on the basis of some ads from former staffers in a previous administration.

KHALID: But Republicans for Biden don't think they need that many defections. The election, they say, could come down to just a sliver of voters in key swing states, and that's who they're trying to convince.

Asma Khalid, NPR News

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.