• The Star Staff

Over 100 ex-staff members for John McCain endorse Joe Biden

By Johnathan Martin

More than 100 former staff members for Sen. John McCain are supporting Joe Biden, a show of support across the political divide that they hope amplifies the “Country First” credo of the former Arizona senator.

That motto and “his frequent call on Americans to serve causes greater than our self-interest were not empty slogans like so much of our politics today,” the group of aides, most of them still Republicans, wrote in a joint statement, praising McCain and implicitly taking aim at President Donald Trump. “They were the creed by which he lived, and he urged us to do the same.”

The list of signatories includes a range of people — from chiefs of staff in McCain’s Senate office to junior aides on his campaigns — who worked for him over his 35 years in Congress and during two presidential bids.

Mark Salter, McCain’s longtime chief aide and speechwriter, helped organize the letter.

“We have different views of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party platform — most of us will disagree with a fair amount of it — but we all agree that getting Donald Trump out of office is clearly in the national interest,” Salter said.

Coinciding with Trump’s renomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday and the second anniversary of McCain’s death this week, the joint endorsement of Biden represents the latest effort from anti-Trump Republicans to lure conservatives and moderates away from the president.

Democrats used their convention last week to recall the friendship Biden and McCain forged and to highlight the support Biden enjoys from some former Republican lawmakers and national security officials.

Many of the onetime McCain aides who signed the letter share his hawkish foreign policy views and recoil from Trump’s “America First” politics, which Salter called his “coddling of dictators or disinterest in our alliances.”

The statement alone is unlikely to affect the presidential race. However, an allied Republican group is hoping to capitalize on it by airing a new television ad in Arizona, a highly competitive state, that contrasts McCain’s acceptance of the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 with a series of Trump’s more inflammatory statements.

“A word to Senator Obama and his supporters,” McCain said at the time, in words that the group, Republican Voters Against Trump, uses in the ad. “Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us. We are fellow Americans, and that’s an association that means more to me than any other.”

The statement is also slated to run in The Washington Post on Friday, the morning after Trump’s acceptance speech.

The quadrennial nominating conventions usually offer tributes to party leaders who have died since the last gathering. But at this week’s Republican convention there has been no mention of McCain, who clashed bitterly with Trump and did not want the president at his funeral. (Trump continued attacking McCain after his death.) Nor has anything been done yet to honor former President George Bush, who also died in 2018.

Indeed, it’s most likely that McCain will end up having had more of a tribute at the Democratic convention than at his own party’s. His widow, Cindy McCain, participated in a video recounting his friendship with Biden but did not address the virtual Democratic gathering.

It remains unclear how far she’ll go with her support for Biden, who is hoping to put Arizona in the Democratic column for the first time since 1996.McCain’s closest advisers were particularly touched by the kindness of Biden in his former colleague’s final months and how he traveled to Arizona to visit McCain at his cabin.

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