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Republican support for Biden's candidacy reaches new heights

The number of Republicans backing Biden in 2020 is qualitatively and quantitatively different than anything Americans have seen in recent memory.
Joe Biden accepts the Democratic Party nomination for president during the last day of the Democratic National Convention in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 20, 2020.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images

Last week, the public was introduced to Miles Taylor, a Republican political appointee who served as a top official in the Department of Homeland Security, and who offered a first-hand assessment that Donald Trump has made the United States "less secure."

In a widely seen video, Taylor added, "Given what I have experienced in the administration, I have to support Joe Biden for president and even though I am not a Democrat, even though I disagree on key issues, I'm confident that Joe Biden will protect the country and I'm confident that he won't make the same mistakes as this president."

Yesterday, one of Taylor's former DHS colleagues made a very similar announcement.

A second former Trump administration Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official spoke out against the president and threw her support behind Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in an ad released Wednesday. Elizabeth Neumann, a former DHS assistant secretary for threat prevention, said the U.S. is "less safe today" because of President Trump's leadership.

Neumann, who also spoke to MSNBC last night, pointed specifically to the effects of Donald Trump's racism and his failures related to the coronavirus response. She conceded she voted for the Republican ticket in 2016, but this year, she's backing Biden.

And she'll have plenty of company. Former Republican Sen. Bill Cohen of Maine endorsed Biden yesterday, joining more than two dozen other former GOP members of Congress who've done the same thing.

Also making headlines today, more than 100 former staffers for the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) are throwing their support behind Biden. Several veterans of Sen. Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign are doing the same thing, as are dozens of officials from former President George W. Bush's team, including two former cabinet secretaries.

Politico also reported this week, "A group of onetime Republican presidential appointees who served as senior ethics or Justice Department aides are endorsing Joe Biden for president, warning that Donald Trump has "weaponized" the executive branch and is putting in peril the legitimacy of the Justice Department."

This comes on the heels of last week's Democratic convention, when Americans heard from some prominent GOP voices -- former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.), et al. -- who threw their support behind the Democratic ticket. The day after Powell spoke, several dozen Republican national security officials -- from the Reagan, Bush/Quayle, and Bush/Cheney administrations -- also endorsed Biden.

To be sure, those who've watched the Republican convention closely this week have heard from a handful of Democrats supporting the incumbent president, including a small-town mayor in Minnesota and a state lawmaker in Georgia.

But to see any kind of equivalency here is ludicrous. As we recently discussed, every four years, voters will see a handful of partisan apostates throw their support behind the other party's nominee -- Georgia's Zell Miller, for example, delivered an unfortunate keynote address at the Republican convention in 2004 -- and these isolated voices are often exaggerated to make it appear as if White House hopefuls enjoy broad, bipartisan support.

But 2020 is qualitatively and quantitatively different. There's no modern precedent for the sheer volume of high-profile Republicans rallying behind the Democratic ticket.

Is it possible the electoral impact of this will be muted? Sure. Circling back to our earlier coverage, Trump's intra-party backing is relatively strong, and many far-right voters, if they hear about these GOP Biden backers at all, will simply assume they're a bunch of centrist RINOs who deserve to be ignored.

But let's not overlook another group of voters: traditional Republicans whose support for their party is soft. They reluctantly backed Trump in 2016, largely because of their contempt for Hillary Clinton, and every day since, they've grown weary of their president's tweets, failures, and scandals.

These voters aren't satisfied with the status quo, and while they're reluctant to back a Democratic ticket, they're open to change. This is a constituency basically waiting for allies to tell them it's OK to choose Biden over Trump.

And for this contingent, a whole lot of prominent Republican voices are now encouraging them to do exactly that.