Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden is seen on a screen during the second night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Wis., on August 18. Photo by Brian Snyder/UPI/Pool | License Photo
Sept. 3 (UPI) -- A group of more than 100 prominent Republicans pledged support for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Thursday, saying the United States needs a change of leadership.
The group Republicans & Independents for Biden, comprised of former GOP lawmakers, politicians and other leaders, said their "sole mission" is to elect the former vice president following severe leadership failures on President Donald Trump's watch.
"More than 180,000 Americans are dead from a pandemic that, with consistent leadership, could have been contained," former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, national chairwoman of the group's steering committee, said in a statement. "Instead, it has been left to spin out of control by a president who ignored it, refused to lead, and endangered American lives."
In a moment of "great national crisis," she added, "we need to elect a leader matched to the moment, someone who can restore competence to the Oval Office and unify the country. Joe Biden is that leader."
The coalition includes former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, as well as former Sens. Dave Durenberger of Minnesota and Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire and 17 former Republican members of the House.
"Joe Biden is a man of deep faith and commitment to family, decency and integrity, which will serve us all well when he is in the White House," said Snyder. "We must elect Joe Biden in November so that we can begin the arduous but essential process of healing America and putting society back on a positive path where civility and working together help us achieve great things as a nation once again."
Whitman said the group's strategy is to persuade Republican and right-leaning independent voters in key battleground states who voted for Trump in 2016 but "now know that he cannot lead our country to the greatness we seek."
In an op-ed Thursday, Whitman said Trump "inflames hate, stokes division and celebrates violence to further his perverse political agenda," and called Biden "the leader we need to restore honesty, integrity and a sense of duty to the Oval Office."
CNN reported this week that Republican support for Biden has far exceeded the GOP support given to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton four years ago.
"Maybe with the exception of 1972 with Democrats for [GOP President Richard] Nixon, I can't remember this many prominent figures in a party crossing lines to support the other candidate," said John J. Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College and former Republican congressional aide.