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Obama snags more Republican endorsements

August 12, 2008 |  8:15 pm

Barack Obama likes to talk about Obamacans –- disaffected Republicans who have pledged their support for his presidential candidacy.

On Tuesday he snagged an especially prominent one -- former GOP Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa.

Leach, who served 15 terms in the House, made his endorsement announcement during a conference call with former Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who was a Republican while in the Senate but is now an independent. Chafee has supported Obama since the Democratic primaries.

Leach told reporters that he was concerned about the Bush administration's "philosophy of government” and worried that Republican John McCain would be “more of the same.” “I'm convinced that the national interest demands a new approach to our interaction with the world," Leach said.

During the call Leach twice suggested that Obama choose Sen. Chuck Hagel as a running mate. If Hagel, a Nebraska Republican and longtime friend of McCain’s, were to join an Obama ticket, he’d be the biggest-name Obamacan in the country. (A Hagel spokesman, however, told USA Today on Tuesday that the senator won’t be making any endorsements in this election.)

Leach wasn't the only "Republican for Obama" who emerged today. In a development that could help Obama make inroads in Alaska, Obama’s campaign announced that he was also being backed by the Republican mayor of Fairbanks North Star Borough, Jim Whitaker.

Whitaker, who told the Daily News-Miner that he likes Obama's energy policy and believes the Democrat has the stronger "intellectual capacity" of the two candidates, said: "My goal is to let Republicans have a clear understanding that their right to vote should not be restricted by any party affiliation."

Whitaker supported McCain in the 2000 Republican primary.

The Obama campaign, hoping to recruit more Obamacans, says it will soon launch a new website to get Republicans to vote for Obama.

-- Kate Linthicum

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