WASHINGTON — More than 100 former staff members for Senator John McCain are supporting Joseph R. Biden Jr., a show of support across the political divide that they hope amplifies the “Country First” credo of the former Arizona senator.
That motto and “his frequent call on Americans to serve causes greater than our self-interest were not empty slogans like so much of our politics today,” the group of aides, most of them still Republicans, wrote in a joint statement, praising Mr. McCain and implicitly taking aim at President Trump. “They were the creed by which he lived, and he urged us to do the same.”
The list of signatories includes a range of people — from chiefs of staff in Mr. McCain’s Senate office to junior aides on his campaigns — who worked for him over his 35 years in Congress and during two presidential bids.
Mark Salter, Mr. McCain’s longtime chief aide and speechwriter, helped organize the letter.
“We have different views of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party platform — most of us will disagree with a fair amount of it — but we all agree that getting Donald Trump out of office is clearly in the national interest,” Mr. Salter said.
Coinciding with Mr. Trump’s renomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday and the second anniversary of Mr. McCain’s death this week, the joint endorsement of Mr. Biden represents the latest effort from anti-Trump Republicans to lure conservatives and moderates away from the president.
Democrats used their convention last week to recall the friendship Mr. Biden and Mr. McCain forged and to highlight the support Mr. Biden enjoys from some former Republican lawmakers and national security officials.
Many of the onetime McCain aides who signed the letter share his hawkish foreign policy views and recoil from Mr. Trump’s “America First” politics, which Mr. Salter called his “coddling of dictators or disinterest in our alliances.”
The statement alone is unlikely to affect the presidential race. However, an allied Republican group is hoping to capitalize on it by airing a new television ad in Arizona, a highly competitive state, that contrasts Mr. McCain’s acceptance of the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 with a series of Mr. Trump’s more inflammatory statements.
“A word to Senator Obama and his supporters,” Mr. McCain said at the time, in words that the group, Republican Voters Against Trump, uses in the ad. “Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us. We are fellow Americans, and that’s an association that means more to me than any other.”
The statement is also slated to run in The Washington Post on Friday, the morning after Mr. Trump’s acceptance speech.
The quadrennial nominating conventions usually offer tributes to party leaders who have died since the last gathering. But at this week’s Republican convention there has been no mention of Mr. McCain, who clashed bitterly with Mr. Trump and did not want the president at his funeral. (Mr. Trump continued attacking Mr. McCain after his death.) Nor has anything been done yet to honor former President George Bush, who also died in 2018.
Indeed, it’s most likely that Mr. McCain will end up having had more of a tribute at the Democratic convention than at his own party’s. His widow, Cindy McCain, participated in a video recounting his friendship with Mr. Biden but did not address the virtual Democratic gathering.
It remains unclear how far she’ll go with her support for Mr. Biden, who is hoping to put Arizona in the Democratic column for the first time since 1996.
Mr. McCain’s closest advisers were particularly touched by the kindness of Mr. Biden in his former colleague’s final months and how he traveled to Arizona to visit Mr. McCain at his cabin.
Mr. Salter, who led the effort to gather signatures along with the former McCain aides Christian Ferry, Niki Christoff and Joe Donoghue, said they had confined their outreach to staff members, and did not seek out McCain family members.
He noted that some former aides had declined to sign because of their current jobs or political obligations, but added that many more were eager to participate. Indeed, most of the senior officials from Mr. McCain’s two presidential campaigns are publicly supporting Mr. Biden.
“These are unusual times, and this is not an easy decision for Republicans to make,” they conceded in the statement, “but we are heartened by Joe Biden’s history of bipartisanship.”