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Some Republicans Consider Casting Their Vote For Hillary Clinton


Hillary Clinton has benefited in this campaign as the provocative things that Donald Trump says often overshadow her own controversies. The Republican nominee has also driven an unusual group of voters her way. The Clinton campaign launched an initiative today called together for America. It might as well be called Republicans for Hillary Clinton. In any other election year, that would be an oxymoron. But as NPR's Tamara Keith reminds us, this is not any other election year.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: For longtime Republican Matthew Higgins, the moment of truth came when his 9-year-old son came to him with a question.

MATTHEW HIGGINS: Said, Daddy, is this how the political process works? If you're a member of the Republican Party, does that mean you have to vote Republican even if you don't agree with what the Republican is saying?

KEITH: Higgins is CEO of a company called RSE Ventures, but he was press secretary when Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York and was involved with fundraising for the McCain and Romney campaigns.

HIGGINS: I'm a member of the Republican Party. He sees the memorabilia in my office, the nice handwritten note from President Bush and the pictures of me with Mitt Romney in Israel. And I found myself differentiating - yeah, but - yeah, but...

KEITH: When it became clear Donald Trump was going to be the Republican nominee, Higgins changed his voter registration to independent, and then he slowly came around to a realization.

HIGGINS: You know, I decided that it wasn't enough to just sit it out, that you really have to get involved.

KEITH: So he called a friend of a friend and eventually found someone to talk to at the Clinton campaign. Now he's part of a growing group, including some very big names - former members of Congress, members of the Bush and Reagan administrations - saying not just never Trump but, I guess I'm with her.

HIGGINS: You have to have a hierarchy of principles at a time like this. So even though I don't agree with, you know, her positions on, you know, taxation, for example, you know, I do believe in her in terms of how she treats people. I do believe in her fundamentally in her vision for the country, what kind of country we want to be.

KEITH: For the Clinton campaign, this is about signaling to those Republicans and independents who are uncomfortable with Trump that it's OK to vote their conscience. Mary Katharine Ham is a senior writer at The Federalist and a conservative commentator at CNN, and she says Trump is opening this door for Clinton.

MARY KATHARINE HAM: He is not demonstrating to some Republicans, like, basic acceptability. They want him to say, look; I am fit for the office. And for many of them, he hasn't hit that bar. So she ideologically doesn't have to turn that much.

KEITH: Moving into the general election, Clinton hasn't moderated her positions on policy at all. Add to that ongoing discomfort about Clinton's email server and things like today's news of emails between a Clinton Foundation staffer and a top Clinton aide, and still Ham says Clinton can make the case.

HAM: Hey, you know, you don't like me, and that's fine; but I'm not going to do anything super crazy. I'm just going to be sort of run of the mill Clintonista corrupt. Vote for me.

KEITH: A new Reuters/Ipsos poll out today found 1 in 5 Republicans wants Donald Trump to drop out of the race - Republicans. So there's something for Clinton's camp to work with.

NEIL SROKA: It's less about Secretary Clinton and more about Republicans running as far as they possibly can from the bigoted train wreck of a campaign that Donald Trump is running.

KEITH: Neil Sroka is with the progressive group Democracy for America. He's glad to see Clinton hasn't shifted on things like college affordability, immigration or taxes in an effort to reach Republicans.

SROKA: Let Donald Trump do your dirty work for you. I think the campaign should be spending more time building support and enthusiasm among the Democratic base than they should be trying to corral Republicans to, you know, sign onto this effort.

KEITH: And if she were running against any other Republican, Clinton and her campaign probably wouldn't have the luxury to chase traditional GOP votes. Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.