- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2012

John Martin loves the GOP and wants to remain a Republican. But the party he grew up supporting has changed, he said, and Mitt Romney is doing nothing to keep his loyalty.

The Republican presidential nominee lacks the will or desire to stand up to “extremists” who have gained a sturdy foothold in the party, Mr. Martin said, and President Obama is far from the socialist demon portrayed by GOP leaders.

For that, the politically active New Jersey resident said, he will vote for Mr. Obama.

“I’m just very unhappy with the state of today’s party,” said Mr. Martin, who heads a group and website called Republicans for Obama. “Although Gov. Romney would have been a great candidate, the Mitt Romney we see today is too beholden to the party’s [conservative] base and to the hard right.”

Mr. Martin isn’t alone. While the vast majority of Republican voters are likely to support the former Massachusetts governor for president, some say they will back Mr. Obama because of the GOP push to the political right.

Lowell Weicker endorsed Mr. Obama despite serving three terms in the Senate and a stint in the House as a Republican from 1969 to 1989. Now an independent, he quit the Republican Party soon after leaving Capitol Hill — not because he had changed politically or ideologically, he said, but because the party had.

The Republican Party increasingly has turned its back on the inner cities and minorities while pandering to religious conservatives, rural communities and the middle and upper classes, he said, and he doesn’t see a swing back to the political center anytime soon.

“The Republican Party has changed from being a party of fiscal conservatism and social moderation [to] become a ‘praise the Lord and pass the ammunition’ party,” he said from his home in Connecticut, where he served as governor from 1991 to 1995 as a member of a third party he created.

“I see little that gives me any faith in terms of the Republican candidates for the presidency and vice presidency that would indicate a direction that I think the country ought to go in,” he said.

Yet Mr. Weicker, 81, said his support for Mr. Obama also hinges on respect for the job he has done since taking office in January 2009, when the economy was in worse shape than today. The president’s task was significantly more difficult than it should have been, he said, because of obstructionism from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

“There’s far more common sense in President Obama in what he wants to do and what he’s done than there iscoming from the Republican Party,” the former Republican lawmaker said.

Other Republicans turned independents who have endorsed Mr. Obama’s presidency include former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and current Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee. Both have been given speaking spots at the Democratic National Convention this week in Charlotte, N.C.

Mr. Martin agrees that Mr. Obama has governed well under “very difficult circumstances.” He said the Illinois Democrat is far less liberal than how most Republicans portray him. He pointed to tax cuts that Mr. Obama included in the 2009 economic stimulus package that made up about a third of its cost, according to many estimates.

Mr. Martin also applauded the president’s 2010 health care reform law, which he says is strikingly similar to Republican and conservative proposals of years past, including a highly touted plan by the Heritage Foundation in the late 1980s and Mr. Romney’s health care reforms enacted while governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.

“A lot of Republicans at first thought Obama would come in and propose single-payer [option for health care insurance] or would propose a federal government option, but he didn’t,” Mr. Martin said. “He adopted what up to that point was a Republican plan.”

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