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Obama Announces Republicans for Obama — with Hagel MIA

Today the Obama campaign kicked off "Republicans for Obama" in a national press conference, touting the support of GOP elected officials and a former intelligence adviser to the Bush administration. The headliners included former Rep. Jim Leach (Iowa), former Sen. Lincoln Chaffee (R.I.) and former White House intelligence adviser Rita Hauser. The campaign touted a post-partisan movement inspired by Sen. Barack Obama’s record of "bringing people together from the left and the right to solve problems, leading with superior judgment on foreign-policy issues and demonstrating fiscal responsibility."

Chaffee, long known as a liberal, maverick Republican in Washington, stressed that he had never voted for a Democrat before backing Obama in the primary. Explaining that his "Republican credentials are sincere," Chaffee said his "kind of conservatism is reflected in Sen. Obama." Meanwhile, far from the campaign’s orchestrated conference call, a red state Republican mayor jumped on board for Obama. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports:

Republican Mayor Jim Whitaker has said he is endorsing Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama. “My goal is to let Republicans have a clear understanding that their right to vote should not be restricted by any party affiliation,” the borough mayor said. He said the economic and political challenges facing the state and country are broader than political parties alone can address and suggested Republicans should consider crossing party lines by focusing on the strongest candidate this year. Obama spokesman Jeff Giertz on Monday called Whitaker the “highest-profile” Republican in the state to endorse the Democratic senator.

The campaign’s conservative outreach effort is still missing Obama’s most high-profile GOP friend, retiring Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who accompanied Obama on his Middle East trip. A reporter asked about Hagel today, but the campaign had no real news about any potential support from him.

The Republican National Committee is also stiff-arming Obama’s claims of GOP backing. Ticking off his "liberal" and traditionally Democratic votes, the GOP sent reporters a missive saying, "let’s not forget Obama’s weak record on bipartisanship." When candidates tout bipartisan credentials, whether it’s Obama or Sen. John McCain, the point is usually to stress an ability to work with and listen to other elected officials — not to stop voting on the platform outlined by a politician’s campaign or party. The only major politician who defines bipartisanship as simply doing what the other party wants is Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman. Not exactly the example Obama is trying to follow.

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