Former Iowa Republican Rep. Jim Leach threw his support behind Sen. Barack Obama today, drawing a rebuke from the McCain campaign that the endorsement is "ironic" given that Leach is a supporter of public financing, which Obama has opted out of.
The Des Moines Register reports:
Leach, as a member of Congress, often departed from the Republican party line, including a vote against former Rep. Newt Gingrich as speaker of the House. The announcement nonetheless represented a high-profile Iowa defection from traditional party loyalties. Whether his rejection of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain will sway other moderate Republicans or independents remains to be seen, political observers said.Although he may not have always towed the party line, Leach tells Radio Iowa in an interview that this is the first time he's endorsed a Democrat.
Leach took part in a conference call organized by the Obama campaign, along with former Sen. Lincoln Chaffee, a Rhode Island Republican who voted in the Democratic primary in his state for Obama. They announced the formation of "Republicans for Obama." The group will have a Web site comparing positions taken by Obama and McCain and a chat room for supporters.....
[Leach] is also a longtime advocate of campaign finance reform and serves as the chairman of the national governing board of the group Common Cause, which works to advance campaign reform.
Wendy Riemann, a spokeswoman for the McCain campaign, said that "it's rather ironic that someone like Jim Leach, a person who placed such a strong focus on campaign finance issues, would be endorsing the first presidential candidate since Watergate to skirt the public financing program in the general election."
It's been a very difficult thing for me because I've never endorsed a Democrat before...but sometimes in life you come to a juncture where it's very clear the national interest trumps party discipline."John Deeth of the Iowa Independent has rounded up reaction from Iowa Republicans and Democrats.