Some voters who supported Barack Obama for president four years ago are now backing Republican Ron Paul. They've been dubbed Blue Republicans.
William Knight is 26, lives in Seattle and voted for Barack Obama in 2008. In demography and geography, he embodied the Obama youth movement.
Now, as Washington Republicans hold their presidential caucuses on Saturday, Wright has a new political hero: Ron Paul.
He’s among a group of voters nationwide who went for Obama four years ago and now support Paul. They’ve been dubbed Blue Republicans by organizer and blogger Robin Koerner, of Seattle, who also backs the Texas congressman.
Koerner is a British expatriate looking to become a U.S. citizen in the next few years. He says Blue Republicans are concerned with what they see as an erosion of civil liberties and the continuation of costly overseas wars. They voted for Obama because they believed he would end the wars and repeal the Patriot Act while focusing on creating economic opportunity in America.
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It’s impossible to say how many people consider themselves Blue Republicans, but the group’s Facebook page has 10,900 “likes.”
Knight says he was an “uninformed voter” when he backed Obama four years ago.
“I believe I had an emotional reaction to a ‘monumental’ election and was swept away in agreement with liberal ideas just because they seemed to be well-intentioned,” he said in an email.
He said the continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and other countries is the No. 1 reason he is switching his vote. Obama has effectively ended combat operations in Iraq, but there are still over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.
“Some people call Ron Paul’s foreign policy ‘isolationist’ to make it sound negative,” said Knight, who will attend Saturday’s caucuses. “But I just see it as a way to end the wars and stop the unnecessary violence.”
Also, Knight and a number of these Blue Republicans were outraged by the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains a clause that allows terrorist suspects to be detained indefinitely.
Blue Republicans see this position as unconstitutional.
Beyond dissatisfaction with the current administration, most of the new Paul supporters have embraced him as the ultimate alternative, neither neoconservative Republican nor liberal Democrat.
Paul emphasizes traditionally Republican views on states’ rights, fiscal conservatism and opposition to abortion, as well as a noninterventionist foreign polity and personal liberty. He’d also return the U.S. to the gold standard, eliminate the Internal Revenue Service and do away with Environmental Protection Agency.
Seattle resident Jennifer Willoughby says she wishes she had known more about Paul in 2008.
As a self-professed social liberal, her views conflict with Paul on several matters, but more important to her is that she thinks he will end the wars and stop torture, which she said she thought Obama would do.
Voters who have moved from Obama to Paul often emphasize their admiration for Paul as a candidate and as a citizen.
“He’s a teacher. He has inspired me to learn more about my country’s politics, and to get involved more on a local level,” said Knight, who has joined phone banks and participated in training for Saturday’s GOP caucuses.
But what will these Blue Republicans do if Paul doesn’t get the nomination?
Willoughby says she doesn’t know, but she thinks her husband, also a Paul supporter, simply won’t vote at all.
Koerner mentioned the nonpartisan, nonprofit group Americans Elect, which aims to provide an online place for voters to “directly nominate” a candidate for president, as a way for Paul supporters to capitalize on the current momentum.
Knight says he would write in Paul.
None of the three said they would vote for Obama.
Editor’s note: Elizabeth Hunter is a University of Washington student who has been writing about the GOP primary race at the UW Election Eye 2012 blog.