Growing parade of conservatives backing Obama
Nick Juliano
Published: Monday July 7, 2008

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An increasing number of disaffected Republicans fed up with what they see as President Bush's broken promises and unimpressed with John McCain say they may be switching teams in November to vote for Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

Among the reformed righties now hoping for an Obama victory are free-market economist David Friedman, former Reagan aide Douglas Kmiec, Contract With America co-author Larry Hunter and Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of the former president.

Bush's "view of the legitimate power of the executive branch, including the authority to deliberately violate federal law, I find frightening," Friedman, son of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman tells the San Francisco Chronicle. "Perhaps, if we are lucky, Obama will turn out to be the anti-Bush."

"The untold story of the Bush administration is the deliberate annihilation of the Reaganite, small-government wing of the Republican Party," said Michael Greve, director of the Federalism Project at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. "A lot of people are very bitter about it."

Many conservatives and their brethren, the free-market, socially liberal libertarians, are deeply skeptical of Obama's rhetorical flirtations with free-market ideas and view his policies as orthodox liberalism. Yet one measure of their rupture with the GOP is their open disregard for Republican nominee John McCain and their now almost-wistful view of a president the Republicans tried to impeach.

"When he leaves the room, everybody thinks he just agreed with them," Greve said of Obama. "We don't know if you're really buying a pig in a poke here. It could be the second coming of the Clinton administration. If people have any confidence in that, I think a whole lot of conservatives would vote for him."

Since emerging as winner of the Democratic primaries, Obama's rhetoric has emphasized some of his positions that may be more attractive to disaffected Republicans, such as his support for some faith-based social programs, while his positions on the war and limitations of executive power make him a better choice than McCain for some libertarians.

"I do know libertarians who think Obama is the Antichrist, that he's farther left than John Kerry, much farther left than Bill Clinton, and you'd clearly have to be insane to vote for this guy," David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, tells the Chronicle. "But there are libertarians who say, 'Oh yeah? Do you think Obama will increase spending by $1 trillion, because that's what Republicans did over the past two presidential terms. So really, how much worse can he be?' And there are certainly libertarians who think Obama will be better on the war and on foreign policy, on executive power and on surveillance than McCain."

At the same time, Obama's recent shifting position on a wiretapping bill has upset ardent civil liberties advocates, leaving Libertarian candidate Bob Barr to seek their votes.

Overall, though, Obama seems to be building a coalition of supporters from across the political spectrum, including conservatives ("Obamacons") and Republicans ("Obamacans"). Eisenhower said his candidacy was a continuation of the ideals her grandfather cherished.

"The biggest barrier to rolling up our sleeves and preparing for a better future is our own apathy, fear or immobility. We have been living in a zero-sum political environment where all heads have been lowered to avert being lopped off by angry, noisy extremists," she wrote in a February essay in the Washington Post. "I am convinced that Barack Obama is the one presidential candidate today who can encourage ordinary Americans to stand straight again; he is a man who can salve our national wounds and both inspire and pursue genuine bipartisan cooperation. Just as important, Obama can assure the world and Americans that this great nation's impulses are still free, open, fair and broad-minded."