'Almost impossible': Inside Biden's uphill battle to win the backing of key anti-Trump Republicans


U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the Pieper-Hillside Boys & Girls Club in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 13, 2024.

Sara Stathas | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Allies of President Joe Biden are ramping up a charm offensive aimed at getting high-profile Republicans and donors who won’t support Donald Trump to back the Democratic president. 

But the task is proving difficult, according to people familiar with the efforts. 

As of Thursday, Biden had not yet secured any endorsements from nationally recognized Republican Party officials.

Meanwhile, several major Republican-leaning political donors who backed former presidential primary candidate Nikki Haley’s campaign are holding back, at least for now, as they make up their minds whether to support Biden.

“Winning campaigns build coalitions, and that is this campaign’s north star for every single day between now and November — earning the support of the voters who will decide this race,” Biden campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz told CNBC in an email Wednesday.

For Biden, there is one Republican endorsement that would outshine all the others. But it is a long shot.

The ultimate endorsement

A few of Biden’s donors who also backed Haley in her primary challenge to Trump have tried to privately encourage her to endorse Biden, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley meets with supporters as she announces her run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination at a campaign event in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. February 15, 2023. REUTERS/Allison Joyce

Allison Joyce | Reuters

Like others in this story, they were granted anonymity to describe private conversations.

As of Thursday, Biden and his senior campaign advisors had not connected with Haley or members of her team about a possible endorsement, they said. And it was unclear if Haley has responded to any of the outreach from her past contributors.

One advisor to a Democratic Biden donor who was aware of this outreach to Haley described the campaign to win her support for Biden as an “almost impossible task.” 

For Haley, endorsing Biden could mean sacrificing any future political prospects she has in a Republican Party that is increasingly controlled by Trump. 

A spokeswoman for Haley did not respond to emails seeking comment. 

The bold-faced names

In the coming months, the Biden team plans to reach out to other Republicans who have taken on Trump, including former Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

A “Republicans for Biden” group could be finalized ahead of the Democratic National Convention in July.

While Haley, Cheney and Christie have not endorsed Biden, each of them has previously denounced Trump in public.

Cheney appears to have come closer than any other high-profile Republican to vocally supporting Biden over Trump — albeit without officially endorsing the president. 

Liz Cheney on standing up to Trump as a Republican: Solitary with the truth is a place I'd rather be

“I’m gonna do whatever is necessary to defeat Donald Trump,” she said in a recent CNN interview. A spokesman for Cheney did not respond to a request for comment. 

The Biden team believes that big named endorsements would likely make the biggest difference later in the election cycle, after the president has firmed up support within his Democratic base and drawn a sharp contrast with Trump.

In recent weeks, the president has been traveling to key states to activate core Democratic voters and highlight his administration’s record of success. At the same time, his campaign has been scaling up its battleground state staff and offices. 

The donors 

As Biden’s campaign builds an operation that will likely cost north of a billion dollars when all is said and done, Biden is looking to pad his campaign coffers with cash from anti-Trump Republican donors. 

Biden outraised Trump by tens of millions of dollars during the first quarter of 2024. But a newly created Republican joint fundraising committee that can accept donations of up to $814,600 per person may begin to tilt the scales in Trump’s favor.

There is already an effort underway by wealthy Biden donors to recruit Haley’s bundlers and contributors. But like the attempt to gain endorsements, here, too, things appear tough.

Some Haley donors cited policy disagreements with the Democratic administration as a big reason they couldn’t commit to Biden yet, according to people familiar with the matter.

But others already appear more open to donating money to Biden than they are to supporting Trump.

Some Haley bundlers said a gift from Haley left them with the impression that the former South Carolina governor hoped they wouldn’t donate to Trump, one of the people explained.

Shortly after Haley’s withdrawal from the GOP primary on March 6, she sent campaign T-shirts to some of her bundlers that said “Barred. Permanently.”

The shirt was a reference to Trump’s notorious threat that anyone who gave money to Haley would be “permanently barred from the MAGA camp.”

But a different person familiar with the matter said the T-shirts were never intended to send any message other than to say “thank you” to her supporters.

Nikki Haley selling “Barred. Permanently. Nikki Haley for President” T-Shirts.

Nikki Haley via X

George Conway, a onetime Republican and vocal Trump opponent, recently gave $929,600 to the Biden Victory Fund and said he plans to attend a dinner for the committee on April 26. 

The Biden Victory Fund raises money for the Biden campaign, the Democratic National Committee and dozens of state parties.

Conway told CNBC the party’s co-hosts are mostly Democrats but that he plans “to try to get some more apostates to show up.” 

As of Thursday, it was unclear if any other current or former Republicans plan to attend.

“Everyone, including Republican voters who reject Trump’s chaos, division, and violence, has a home in President Biden’s campaign,” said Munoz, the Biden campaign aide.

Yet even as some Haley Republicans signal they want to take a break, for now, from presidential politics, other parts of the Never Trump universe want Biden to step things up.

The ready and willing 

For these Republicans, Biden’s current outreach does not go far enough to reengage disenchanted Haley voters, many of whom have already experienced a big disappointment this year.

“There were [approximately] 76k votes for Nikki Haley last night in [Wisconsin’s primary],” Bill Kristol, a Never Trump political consultant and former Reagan administration aide, wrote in a post on social media site X.

“Biden won WI by [approximately] 20k votes in 2020. Republican voters against Trump matter,” he added. “A little more outreach from Team Biden to those voters might not be a bad idea.”

Bill Kristol

Michael Brochstein | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Kristol’s nonprofit, Defending Democracy Together, is helping to finance a $50 million ad campaign from a group called Republican Voters Against Trump. The ads will feature onetime Trump voters explaining why they decided not to vote for him again.

Mike Madrid, a co-founder of the anti-Trump PAC The Lincoln Project, told CNBC that Republicans ready to play a role in the 2024 election are still waiting for some guidance from Biden’s team.

“Most interaction with the Biden campaign has been informal to this point, because most of the donors, elected officials and campaign professionals are looking for direction,” said Madrid.

“We’re waiting for marching orders,” he said.

Everyone else

While some of the key players in Bidenland are busy courting individual Republicans, other parts of Biden’s team are designing ways to connect with disillusioned Haley supporters across the country.

The Biden campaign recently launched an advertisement encouraging Haley’s supporters to back Biden instead of Trump. A political action committee called “Haley Voters for Biden” is also trying to persuade Haley voters to support Biden, according to Semafor. 

Former UN Ambassador and 2024 presidential hopeful Nikki Haley, with New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu (L), speaks to the press outside a polling site at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, New Hampshire, on January 23, 2024.

Joseph Prezioso | AFP | Getty Images

The effort to convert opposition to Trump into support for Biden comes at a crucial time for the president, who may need these voters and their donations to win reelection in November.

A Real Clear Politics polling average on Thursday showed Biden and Trump in a virtual tie in the race for the White House.

Whoever wins the presidency in November will most likely need to make major inroads with former Haley supporters to do so. Polls showed Haley’s primary voters tended to be more centrist, educated and affluent than average.

If the Biden campaign can convert individual anti-Trump VIPs into Biden supporters, how they did it could hold important lessons for team Biden down the road.



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