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A new political breed: Obamacans


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Once in a blue moon, a candidate is able to transcend party labels. Reagan comes to mind. And now, Barack Obama.

By David Person

A new genus of flower has been introduced into the 2008 presidential race. It's a cross-pollination of disenchanted, moderate-to-liberal Republicans and the movement that is Barack Obama's campaign.

Obamacans is what some people call them.

The list of prominent Republicans crossing party lines to endorse Obama is, so far, short but interesting. Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of the late president Dwight Eisenhower, tops it. Former U.S. senator Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island is on it, too.

Isn't this blasphemy?

If Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment directed GOP candidates to never speak ill of another Republican, surely one of the sacred 10 forbids crossing party lines to support a liberal Democrat. Aren't Republicans supposed to back Republicans?

"Last time I checked, Republicans were supposed to be open-minded and free-thinking," says Tony Campbell, spokesperson for RepublicansforObama.org.

Founded in 2006, Campbell's organization might well be leading the charge among mutinous Republicans in the online world. He says it has 800 members in 19 states and is growing. On Super Tuesday, Campbell says, the site had 22,000 hits. Now, it gets 1,200 to 1,500 hits a day.

Campbell describes himself as a fiscally conservative, libertarian, moderate Republican. He teaches political science at Towson University near Baltimore.

The moderate label might tempt some to dismiss the 42-year-old college professor and former congressional candidate as easy pickings for a Democratic candidate. Not so. Campbell voted for Reagan in 1984, George H.W. Bush in 1988, Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. His only vote for a Democratic presidential candidate was in 1992, when he voted for Bill Clinton.

That is, until last month, when he crossed party lines to vote for Obama in the Maryland primary.

Campbell wasn't alone. CNN.com reported that 70% of Republicans they surveyed who voted on the same day in Virginia's primary cast their ballots for Obama.

Speaking of Virginia, Clarence E. Hodges remembers Democrat Douglas Wilder's 1989 campaign to be the Commonwealth's first black governor. Hodges, also a Republican, was a deputy assistant secretary of State in the elder Bush's administration at the time. That didn't stop him from sporting a Wilder sticker on his car and volunteering for the campaign, even though he lived in Maryland.

"The best of candidates are not always in one party," says Hodges. "The most moral candidates are not always in one party."

Hodges' ties to the GOP go back several decades. He once worked for U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, one of the Senate's most prominent and respected Republicans, as well as working at the White House during the Reagan years.

Yet Hodges differs from Campbell and many other members of his party in a major way: He's black and sees race as an important, even pivotal, factor in politics.

"We have racial identification before we have political identification," Hodges says. "It doesn't mean that it's only race (that matters)."

Campbell, who is also black, couldn't disagree more. Campbell says his support of Obama isn't based on race at all, though his party affiliation has been influenced by it.

"The Democrats in this state (Maryland) have taken the African-American vote for granted," he says. "I could never be a Democrat."

But Campbell could vote for one who, in perhaps an ironic twist, has the ability to inspire wide swaths of the American people, much as Reagan did. And that could mean trouble for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"McCain is just not a good candidate," Hodges says. "Barack is fired up. McCain is fired down."

Hodges chuckles at this comparison, but for many Republicans it's not a laughing matter.

In fact, it must have been unsettling for the Republican faithful to hear former secretary of State Colin Powell sing Obama's praises to PBS' Tavis Smiley on the eve of the New Hampshire primaries back in January. One month later, Powell went even further, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he was leaving his voting options open.

More than two years ago, as the buzz on an Obama candidacy was growing, I interviewed former senator Edward Brooke, the first black person to be elected by popular vote to the Senate in the nation's history. Brooke, also a Republican, gave Obama his blessing and unintentionally foretold the Obamacan trend.

"I think he's a very formidable candidate," Brooke said. "He's a Democrat and I'm a Republican, but that doesn't matter to me."

David Person is a columnist with The Huntsville (Ala.) Times and hosts a daily radio talk show on WEUP-AM.

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On Super Tuesday, Campbell says, the site had 22,000 hits. Now, it gets 1,200 to 1,500 hits a day

So the site was linked at how many leftist and Obama sites?

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On Super Tuesday, Campbell says, the site had 22,000 hits. Now, it gets 1,200 to 1,500 hits a day

So the site was linked at how many leftist and Obama sites?

Probably as many right wing sites that you post from

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