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Former GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger endorses Biden, whose campaign wants to flip anti-Trump Republicans

Former congressman Adam Kinzinger on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., speaks during a House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 27, 2021.

NEW YORK — Former Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger endorsed President Joe Biden on Wednesday, giving the Democrat a prominent new ally in his high-stakes campaign to win over moderate Republicans and independents this fall.

Kinzinger, a military pilot who emerged as a fierce critic of former President Donald Trump after the U.S. Capitol was attacked by Trump’s supporters, described Trump as “a direct threat to every fundamental American value” in a video announcing the Biden endorsement.

“While I certainly don’t agree with President Biden on everything, and I never thought I’d be endorsing a Democrat for president, I know that he will always protect the very thing that makes America the best country in the world: our democracy,” said Kinzinger, who voted for Trump in 2020.

The former Illinois congressman also issued an ominous warning. Trump, he said, will “hurt anyone or anything in pursuit of power.”

Kinzinger’s announcement comes on the eve of the opening presidential debate and gives Biden an example he can raise Thursday night of a well-known Republican supporting him over Trump. Biden’s camp is prioritizing outreach to moderate Republicans and independents alienated by Trump’s tumultuous White House tenure.

Kinzinger becomes the highest-profile Republican official formally backing Biden, whose campaign earlier in the month tapped Kinzinger’s former chief of staff Austin Weatherford to serve as its national Republican outreach director.

Republican former Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan also endorsed Biden last month.

On Wednesday, appearing with Duncan and Harry Dunn, a former police officer who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Kinzinger reiterated his argument that sending Trump back to the White House would be rewarding a candidate “intent on dividing and destroying the American people to turn them against each other for his own selfish gain.”

“I tell you what, I am proud to stand up here today as a conservative Republican and endorsing Joe Biden for reelection to the president of the United States,” Kinzinger said during a news conference at the Georgia state Capitol.

Ultimately, a number of prominent Republicans are expected to join Biden’s campaign, with more influential names likely to be announced closer to the November election.

Shortly after Kinzinger announced his decision, Biden shared the endorsement video on social media and said he was grateful for the Republican’s support.

“This is what putting your country before your party looks like,” Biden wrote on X.

Biden’s team is trying to create what it calls “a permission structure” for Republican voters who would otherwise have a difficult time casting a ballot for the Democratic president.

Kinzinger developed a national profile as one of two Republicans who served on the House’s committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. The committee highlighted a number of Trump’s transgressions before and during the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol as Congress tried to certify the election results for Biden.

Kinzinger, who did not seek reelection in 2022 after voting to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack, called on the GOP to change course.

“To every American of every political party and those of none, I say now is not the time to watch quietly as Donald Trump threatens the future of America,” said Kinzinger, who repeatedly described himself as a conservative in the video. “Now is the time to unite behind Joe Biden and show Donald Trump off the stage once and for all.”

In a statement Wednesday, Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez described Kinzinger as “a true public servant who is a model for putting our country and our democracy over party and blind acquiescence to Trump.”

“Congressman Kinzinger represents the countless Americans that Donald Trump’s Republican Party have left behind,” she said. “Those Americans have a home in President Biden’s coalition, and our campaign knows that we need to show up and earn their support.”

Trump and his allies have long dismissed Kinzinger’s efforts to rally Republicans against him. The former president publicly celebrated when Kinzinger didn’t seek reelection and has called for the prosecution of Kinzinger and others who served on the Jan. 6 committee, part of his pattern of suggesting his opponents face government retribution.

Biden has been particularly focused on courting supporters of Republican former presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who continued to win over a significant number of anti-Trump GOP primary voters throughout the spring even after suspending her campaign.

As part of Biden’s sustained outreach to moderate voters in both parties, his campaign released an ad highlighting Trump’s often-personal attacks against Haley, including his primary nickname of her as “birdbrain” and suggestion that “she’s not presidential timber.”

Haley last month said she will vote for Trump in the general election. On Wednesday, Kinzinger said Biden could continue to make overtures to Haley’s supporters by aiming to appeal to them on issues like national security, a hallmark of the former United Nations ambassador’s own presidential campaign.

“I think Joe Biden showing his commitment to strong national defense, showing his commitment to democracy and showing the fact that, you’re welcome even if you’re still Republican, is a huge thing,” Kinzinger said.

Indeed, Trump’s grip on his party’s passionate base is stronger than ever. And the overwhelming majority of Republican elected officials are backing his 2024 campaign, even those few, like Haley, who worked against him in the primary phase of the campaign.
Meg Kinnard contributed reporting from Atlanta.

Picture of Associated Press

Associated Press

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