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Biden campaign taps former Republican staffer to head outreach to GOP voters

Austin Weatherford, former chief of staff to Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, will lead efforts to reach moderate Republicans
Election 2024 Biden
Posted at 4:34 PM, Jun 06, 2024

President Joe Biden's campaign is stepping up efforts to win over moderate Republican voters, taping a longtime GOP strategist to help win over a voting block that could be key to his reelection.

Scripps News confirmed Austin Weatherford, who served as Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger’s chief of staff, is joining the Biden-Harris campaign as National Republican Engagement Director, according to a campaign official. Weatherford will oversee efforts to reach independent and Republican voters dissatisfied with former President Donald Trump.

Kinzinger, who retired from Congress last year, was one of just two Republicans who served on the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Kinzinger repeatedly spoke out against the former president’s false claims of victory in 2020, eventually facing censure from the Republican National Committee for participating in the House’s investigation into the insurrection.

Reached by Scripps News, Weatherford declined to comment on his new role beyond the campaign’s announcement.

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Weatherford’s hiring comes as the Biden campaign continues to ramp up outreach to Republican voters. As Scripps News previously reported, a campaign official recently joined a call with supporters of Nikki Haley shortly after the GOP presidential contender threw her support behind Trump. Biden’s reelection team also recently placed a seven-figure ad buy targeting moderate voters by highlighting the former president’s past criticisms of Haley.

“Weatherford’s addition is just the latest in Team Biden-Harris’ work to reach and invest in [GOP and independent] voters, while Donald Trump continues to push moderates and Nikki Haley supporters away from his campaign,” a campaign official said.

Other Democratic groups, too, have stepped up efforts to attack Trump on his home turf. The Democratic National Committee sponsored a digital billboard near where Trump will be speaking in Phoenix Thursday afternoon — characterizing the former president as a “convicted felon.” It's the first time the DNC has pursued a paid advertisement using that moniker.

Trump’s Arizona speech, billed as a town hall with conservative advocacy group Turning Point Action, marks his first campaign stop since a 12-person jury in Manhattan found him guilty of 34 felony counts related to an alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. The former president maintains innocence, previously saying that he will appeal the conviction.

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In a statement to Scripps News, a Trump campaign spokesperson rejected the Biden team’s notion that the president is gaining ground with GOP and independent voters.

“All Americans, of all backgrounds, view Joe Biden as a weak and incompetent president with failed policies, and remember how much better their lives were under President Trump's strong leadership,” said Karoline Leavitt, the Trump campaign’s national press secretary.

Election results show Trump continues to lose a sizable proportion of GOP votes to Haley in recent primary contests, even after she dropped out and endorsed him. In Pennsylvania, Haley won 157,000 votes, and she brought in close to 77,000 in Wisconsin. Those swing states, which Biden won in 2020, will be critical in the November election.