Four prominent Republicans will join leftwing senator Bernie Sanders on the virtual stage for the first night of the Democratic National Convention, as the party attempts to show a broad coalition of support for Joe Biden. 

John Kasich, the 2016 Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Ohio, will be one of the headline speakers for the party’s first hour of programming on Monday evening. The event will also feature former first lady Michelle Obama and Mr Sanders, the former Democratic candidate and self-described democratic socialist whose far-left political agenda endeared him to the party’s young progressive wing.

Christine Todd Whitman, the former Republican governor of New Jersey; Meg Whitman, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive and Republican candidate for California governor; and Susan Molinari, a former Republican congresswoman from New York who gave the keynote speech at the 1996 Republican convention, will also make appearances at the virtual event.

As Mr Biden prepares to formally accept the Democratic nomination, campaign and party officials have been strategising over how to win back moderate and independent voters who may have swung for Mr Trump in the last election but soured on him over the past four years.

Two Republican-led anti-Trump groups — the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump — have attempted to marshal this group against the president, arguing that a Biden presidency would mark a return to normalcy. But Mr Trump’s supporters claim that many of his loudest Republican critics represent an elite group that has been out of step with the direction of the party for a long time.

The party is also trying to generate enthusiasm for the more moderate Mr Biden among the young, progressive voters who backed more left-leaning candidates like Mr Sanders or Elizabeth Warren during the primary, and whose support the Democratic nominee will need to win in the presidential election.

Some of those progressives were critical of the decision to feature Republican speakers, saying that the convention’s organisers and party leadership were giving a platform to speakers who did not share some of the party’s core values.

“Really gotta admire the profound ignorance and outright disdain for progressives from @TheDemocrats that, when pressed with calls to add more younger progressives to the speaking line-up at the [Democratic National Convention] added old white [R]epublicans instead,” tweeted Jordan Uhl, a progressive activist.

Other progressive Democrats zeroed in on Mr Kasich’s record on abortion in Ohio, including the closure of more than half the state’s abortion clinics during his administration, and a bill Mr Kasich had signed as governor that banned abortions early in the second trimester.

Mr Kasich has also come under fire for his comments about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young, progressive New York congresswoman and a rising Democratic star, who will be speaking at the Democratic convention.

Mr Kasich suggested to BuzzFeed News that Ms Ocasio-Cortez got “outsized publicity” but that did not mean “she represent[ed] the Democratic party”.

Christine Todd Whitman was the Republican governor of a state that reliably votes Democratic in presidential elections, while Meg Whitman and Ms Molinari also hail from blue states.

Mr Kasich, who unsuccessfully challenged Mr Trump for the Republican nomination last time round, chose to write in John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, in the 2016 election rather than voting for Mr Trump.

His state of Ohio went for Mr Trump in 2016, but a RealClearPolitics average of polls currently show it leaning slightly towards Mr Biden this time.

Still, the Biden campaign said the four speakers were important voices for certain corners of the electorate that the Democratic party was trying to reach.

“There are a bunch of people out there, silent Biden voters, Republicans that want to vote for Biden or that will be voting for Biden, and it’s important to let them know that they’re not alone,” said Cedric Richmond, the Democratic congressman and Biden campaign co-chair.


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