RALEIGH, NC (AP) – Jay Copan makes no secret of his contempt for the modern Republican Party.
A solid Republican voter for four decades, the 69-year-old quickly regretted having voted for Donald Trump in 2016. When Trump was re-elected last year, Copan appeared on roadside billboards across North Carolina, urging other Republicans to support their Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Almost three months after the start of the new administration, Copan considers himself a “Republican Biden,” relieved by the new president’s calmer leadership style and vaccine distribution efforts. Copan is the type of voter Biden relies on as he pursues an agenda that Republicans in Washington almost universally oppose.
As Biden meets with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday to discuss his massive infrastructure plan, he is betting the elected GOP leaders are miscalculating politically. The party base remains extremely loyal to Trump, but Biden believes Republican leaders are neglecting everyday Americans hungry for compromise and action.
The question is whether there are enough Republicans like Copan.
“I really want there to be a good two-party system,” said Copan, a former senior officer with the American Gas Association. His vote for Biden for the presidency was his first for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976, but he likely won’t. be his last. “I think there are a lot of people like me out there.”
The ranks of Republican crossovers may be smaller than expected. Only 8% of Republicans voted Democratic in the November presidential race, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of voters across the country.
“If there are Republicans who vote for Biden, they weren’t voting for Biden, that’s just never misleading,” said Phillip Stephens, a former Democrat who is now Republican vice president in Robeson County, about 145 km south of Raleigh. The county twice voted for Barack Obama, but opted for Trump in 2016 and again last year.
In Biden’s early months, Stephens sees the president speaking more to the left than to conservative Democratic voters.
During last year’s campaign, Biden occasionally courted Republicans at the risk of alienating the Democratic left. Several prominent Republicans won speaking positions at the Democratic National Convention, including former Ohio Governor John Kasich.
A number of Republican groups have also openly supported Biden. Republican voters against Trump spent $ 2 million on billboards in Swing States, featuring Republicans opposed to re-electing their own party president. So the beaming, bespectacled image of Copan, 3.6 meters (12 feet) high, ended up on billboards with the words, “I’m conservative.” I appreciate decency. I vote Biden. “
As president, Biden has expressed his willingness to work with Republicans. But he also helped push Congress through the biggest expansion of the social safety net in a generation as part of a coronavirus relief and revival plan that did not get a single Republican vote. He is now calling for spending trillions of dollars more on infrastructure, pushing for a proposal meant to attract people from both sides.
Biden has so far enjoyed broad, relatively bipartisan support, with 73% of Americans approving his response to the coronavirus and 60% approving his handling of the economy. Still, favorable ratings don’t always translate into votes: Of the more than 200 countries that backed Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016, only about 25 returned to Biden in November.
The limited crossover power is even true in places that were bright spots for Democrats. Biden overthrew the longtime Republican stronghold of Kent County, Michigan, which includes Grand Rapids, the hometown of Gerald Ford. But those gains hinged more on the local electorate becoming younger than on any measurable push from Tories backing Biden.
Joe Farrington ran for Congress as a “working class Republican” and owns a bar in Lyons, Michigan, about 50 miles east of Grand Rapids, Ion County, where Trump won almost two-thirds of the votes. During a candidate debate, he called Trump “somewhat of a dumb” – and finished fourth in a five-a-side primary race.
He says Biden is doing the right thing when it comes to infrastructure, social issues and the environment. Still, Farrington has said he will remain loyal to the Republican Party – even if he runs for Congress again in 2022 in opposition to much of who he stands for. “We have to change it from within,” he says.
Scott Carey, former general counsel for the Tennessee Republican Party, wrote an op-ed in October saying he was voting for Biden. He’s been mostly satisfied so far – but not on the verge of becoming a born again Democrat. He is concerned about tax increases and the government’s overbreadth.
“I don’t see myself becoming a big Harris, or certainly a Bernie fan or anything like that,” Carey said of Vice President Kamala Harris and Liberal Senator Bernie Sanders. If Biden decides not to run for a second term in 2024, Carey said, he would be more excited about Republicans, including “some governors I’ve never even heard of who would step up after Trump and bring us back to sound policies. government. ”
Others, however, say they have quit the GOP for good.
Tom Rawles is a former Republican County Supervisor in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and was instrumental in Biden, Arizona swing state. After voting for Biden, Rawles signed up as a Democrat.
“I’d rather fight philosophically within the Democratic Party than I would for the character of the Republican Party, because there isn’t one there,” Rawles said. He’s 71 years old and says he doesn’t expect the GOP to revert to principles he can support in his lifetime.
Rawles and his wife spent months before the election sitting in their driveway along a busy Phoenix suburban road, hoisting Biden signs for four hours a day. Some drivers stopped to chat or offer water. Others made rude gestures or shouted that they were fierce blue California intruders.
“Some people were shouting, ‘Go home! “” Rawles recalls. “And we were like, ‘We’re in our driveway. Where do you want us to go? “