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These are the Democrats winning the 'Never Trump' Republican primary

Katie Glueck, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- As Democrats debate which presidential contender could beat Donald Trump, anti-Trump Republicans -- and recent ex-Republicans -- can think of a few names.

They're just not names that thrill Democratic activists.

"Joe Biden is the type of candidate who could get me to actually look at a Democratic candidate as opposed to an independent," said former Florida Rep. David Jolly, who was a Republican until last year.

"My preference would be to support a man like Michael Bloomberg," emailed Mike Fernandez, who was a GOP megadonor from the Miami area but left the party the day after Trump's election. "And if he runs, I will."

If not Bloomberg? "Biden. Humbled, experienced, non-extremist."

Biden and Bloomberg -- two white, male, relatively centrist septuagenarians -- both appear at odds with the ascendant progressive wing of the Democratic Party. It is unclear, should they run, whether either could pull through a primary, and polls show that Bloomberg in particular would face long odds.

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But on Election Day, those two Democrats would be best-positioned to earn the votes of Republicans who rejected Trump in 2016 -- not the candidates tacking leftward to align with an increasingly liberal activist class that has embraced self-described democratic socialists.

"If there's a Democrat that's running on a hard-left agenda, that I think would do more to add to our deficit and debt problem, that would make some of the poor foreign policy decisions by this administration even murkier, no," said John Stubbs, a former George W. Bush administration official who was a founder of a Republicans for Hillary Clinton group in 2016.

It's not that Stubbs and other staunchly anti-Trump Republicans will vote for the president, who, certainly, won without them last time. But these potentially gettable Democratic voters aren't all going to automatically back the other side, either. And in key battleground states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Democrats can't simply write them off. Indeed, they have much in common with the moderate, well-educated suburbanites who helped deliver the House to Democrats last fall.

Former Rep. Ryan Costello used to represent exactly those voters. His affluent, suburban Philadelphia-area district was until recently a GOP stronghold. But in 2016 voters narrowly picked the hawkish, fiscally moderate Clinton over Trump, and thanks to new district lines and the national environment, the district grew more Democratic last cycle. Costello retired.

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