Jim Leach endorses Obama

"It’s been a very difficult thing for me because I’ve never endorsed a Democrat before…but sometimes in life you come to a juncture where it’s very clear the national interest trumps party discipline," former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach said in a noontime interview with Radio Iowa.  Read more below.

Two updates below provide links to audio of Leach talking about his decision.

Former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach — a Republican — endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama this morning.  Leach, as you may recall, lost his bid for re-election in 2006 after three decades representing portions of eastern Iowa in congress.  Leach was considered a "moderate" Republican and was a backer of campaign finance reform.  Leach did not accept campaign contributions from political action committees. 

Leach became a professor at his alma mater — Princeton — and then was asked to be the interim director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government when its director left to run for the U.S. Senate. The institute’s new director is to start September 1, 2008 and Leach will return to Princeton for the fall semester. Leach’s wife has contributed the maximum amount allowed to Obama’s campaign.

Of additional note:  Leach shared an office with Dick Cheney when Cheney — and Leach — worked for Donald Rumsfeld in D.C.  decades ago.   Cheney spoke at a campaign fundraiser for Leach in Cedar Rapids in 2003.  Here’s the pertinent part:  "I appreciate your warm welcome. But I am especially pleased to be here today with Jim, because Jim and I have been friends for many, many years. Lynne and I have known Jim and Deba longer than we can count. Jim and I first got to know each other more than 30 years ago — I guess it was 1969 — when we both went to work for a young, up and comer then, a budding politician. Jim had already worked for him when he was in the House of Representatives. He was in his mid-30s. His name was Don Rumsfeld. And he was no longer a congressman from Illinois; he was running the Office of Economic Opportunity. And Jim and I went to work for him in the executive branch some 34, almost 35 years ago.

"Subsequent to that, of course, Jim had important assignments at the State Department, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. I went to work for President Ford. Eventually, in 1976, Jim got elected to the House of Representatives. In 1978, I got elected to the House of Representatives. My state of Wyoming was a little bit different than Iowa in the sense that we only had one congressman for the entire state. It was a small delegation. (Laughter.) But it was quality. (Laughter.)

"But, so I followed Jim by two years in the House, but one of the great privileges in the House are the friendships and the relationships that deepen as a result of your time there, and I had the great privilege of serving for ten years with Jim. And it has subsequently, obviously, been a great pleasure now to return to government, and one of the nice things about going back after I thought I’d finished my career in politics and planned to enjoy private life, to return back to Washington with the President and become part of his administration has been the privilege of renewing a lot of those old friendships and relationships with men and women that I had worked with previously, and now we’ve gotten back together again. And I think of people like Jim that I worked with in the Congress, and Don Rumsfeld is back at Defense. He hasn’t made any progress at all in about 30 years — same old job. (Laughter.) Colin Powell at the State Department, et cetera."

UPDATE:  Radio Iowa story, with Leach comments.  Includes 3 1/2 minutes MP3 file with Leach’s comments at the beginning of a conference call arranged by the Obama campaign.

UPDATE II: Radio Iowa interview with Leach (7 min MP3)

This was the first thing Leach said when he came on the line:  "It’s been a very difficult thing for me because I’ve never endorsed a Democrat before…but sometimes in life you come to a juncture where it’s very clear the national interest trumps party discipline."

Later, when asked whether today’s action was a sort of "divorce" from his fellow Iowa Republicans, Leach had this to say:  "It’s a very awkward circumstance.  I don’t have ambition to seek public life or public position.  I truly am enjoying teaching, so I’ve made a decision as a citizen and as a citizen, I am convinced that the national interest of the United States is very much in jeopardy at this time and not to reassess, not to redirect would be a major problem that would have ramifications for decades to come."

UPDATE III:  Wendy Riemann, an Iowa-based spokewoman for McCain’s campaign, sent along the following text in an email:

Leach Co-Authored The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act Which Obama Blames For The Subprime Lending Crisis:

Leach Was The Co-Author Of The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, Which Repealed The Glass-Steagall Act  And Allowed Competition Between Commercial And Investment Banks And Insurance Companies. (S. 900, Signed 11/12/99)

Obama Has Attacked The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act As A Lobbyist-Driven Deregulation That Led To The Subprime Lending Crisis. Obama: “By the time the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999, the $300 million lobbying effort that drove deregulation was more about facilitating mergers than creating an efficient regulatory framework. … The regulatory environment failed to keep pace. When subprime mortgage lending took a reckless and unsustainable turn, a patchwork of regulators were unable or unwilling to protect the American people.” (Cheyenne Hopkins, “Regulatory Revamp Newest Plank In Obama’s Platform,” American Banker, 3/28/08)

Update IV:  by 1:50 p.m. — six hours after the story broke — the McCain campaign issued the following statement:  "It’s rather ironic that someone like Jim Leach, a person who placed such a strong focus on campaign finance issues, would be endorsing the first presidential candidate since Watergate to skirt the public financing program in the general election.  Despite Obama’s lofty speeches on change, Iowans know that real change comes from working across the aisle to get things done. A single endorsement does not hide the fact that Senator Obama has no record of achievement beyond the confines of his party. While John McCain has spent his career putting the country first – ahead of personal and party interests – Senator Obama’s record is a lesson in partisanship.” — Wendy Riemann, McCain Spokesperson, Iowa.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Four More Years??? says

    Great news!!!!
    Thank you Dr. Leach.
    This will turn Iowa into a blue state this November.

  2. Congressman Leach served (and still is for the next few weeks) interim director of the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, not of the Kennedy School itself. http://www.iop.harvard.edu

  3. “Obama attacked his legislation?” In the words of Senator Obama, “Is that the best they can do?”

  4. Aiken Blue says

    This is fantastic! Great choice, we are behind you. Vote for OBAMA! WHYOBAMA08.ORG!!!

  5. Jim Leach was the first congressman I ever voted for. I knew I liked him ;-).

  6. well looks like leach will have a hard time on next election too. he has lost me and about 100 more who will not vote for him again. HOW CAN YOU BE SO DUMB?!!!!!! i hope you feel the consequences of your actions!

  7. Big River Bandido says

    Response to kim:
    Obviously you are full of it. Jim Leach lost his bid for a 16th term in 2006, which you would have known if you were really a constituent of his. Of course, if you had bothered to READ the article, it clearly stated that Leach was no longer in Congress and has no desire to return to public office.

  8. Very cool. I can remember Congressman Leach coming to my seventh grade social studies class and took questions from the class. This was in the mid 70’s. He left a good impression even to a 13 year old. I think this move sends a clear message to all those who cannot live through four more years of war and economic failure under McSame. Thanks Congressman Leach! And here’s to Iowa, a great place to grow!

  9. Ginny in CO says

    How kind of McCain’s campaign to give more exposure to Obama’s statement against the The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. That’s worth more than the endorsement as far as I’m concerned….
    The more Americans understand what repealing the Glass-Steagall Act did to our economy, the less likely they will vote for McGOP.

  10. LindaWells says

    What in the world are you thinking?? Obama for president? Are you trying to ruin the US? I lived in Iowa for 27 years and was proud to be from Iowa…now in Texas. I am embarrassed that you would endorse Obama.

  11. LindaWells says

    Well…I am not a spam email.. If you do not publish my comments…I will know you are only publishing those you agree with…and I do not agree with you..
    We will see.

  12. Joel Weymouth says

    It is no longer Republican or Democrat, it is Liberal and Conservative. Leach was a liberal. And those of you who call McCain – McSame, (typical Liberal Ad Hominen and worthy of Obama, style and no substance and utterly false)- you will be crying in your soups after 4 years of that Marxist Obama and the loss of your freedom. You call placing 270 or so Muslim terrorists in Gitmo tyranny. You will see tyranny with the establishment of a “nanny State” in the form of Britain. God help us if he wins.

  13. I wouldn’t expect anymore out of you! You ARE NOT thinking of putting someone as inexperience as Senator Obama as President when we are in such danger as a country!!! No matter what changes he may want which I don’t agree with, he doesn’t have the experience of getting things done! I will always blame your disloyal Republicans for the war in Iraq for not being ended by now BUT we will win the safety of our country in spite of you all because of our military who have given up themselves for us and their families that stand by them! You do not know anything about putting our country first as we are at war and all you want to do is wring your hands as terrorist are individuals who have made a committement to lose their lives for their cause no matter which civilians get killed … WE ARE AT RISK and if we don’t take this serious then we WILL LOSE OUR FREEDOMS! Anyhow, just want you to know you don’t speak for this AMERICAN as the risk to our country is too great to people like you cutting all resource of finding our enemy!!! GOD BLESS OUR COUNTRY and THE YOUNG MEN & WOMEN WHO KEEP US FREE!!!

  14. Rodney Hoover says

    I would start by saying I was a hawk-eye for many years playing baseball in Clinton down by the river. Now I must say that Iowa is much like the rest of the country we as a people do not understand the big picture we listen to phrases like Change, hope and continue to look to blame someone for whatever, a word often use to excuse further thought. Well that is what we have in Obama and long time political thinkers like Leach have given up on what makes our country great he will throw all logical thinking into the air for change but what kind of change increased taxes for all and a Global tax are you kidding me, you do not think this will be a job killer. How about energy no drilling we need to create a bridge to get to energy independence can you think of the jobs created by building more refineries and Nuclear Power plants. Does Leach agree with Obama’s block on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. Can we ask Mr. Leach if he would attend the Trinity United Church as a guest speaker.
    Someone needs to question Mr Leach to find out if he is still an informed thinker or just another feel good moron.

  15. Mr. Leach
    WHY on God’s beautiful green earth would you even consider voting for obama. Unless you are a committed socialist. If you are a socialist…..WHY. Do you actually believe that government can or will take care of all problems of humanity? HARDLY! But what socialism does do is takes full government control of people and their lives. Thereby, reducing them to nothings.
    How could you ever have called yourself a Republican with that kind of ideology!

  16. GREAT! This guy rocks! It’s nice to know Jim Leach sure has a pair of b@lls! Too bad there aren’t more moderate republicans like Jim Leach around anymore!
    Instead we’re stuck the the fear-mongering, severe military spending, civil rights trashing, idiotic economic policy pushing, and sad foreign policy makers that we’ve had for a while now!
    …OBAMA’S V.P. that is!!

  17. Jim Starkweather says

    So essentially Mr. Leach is confessing he is a “liberal” Republican and not a moderate. John McCain is the moderate and Obama is the liberal in this upcoming election. If Leach was a real moderate (like most of the people of Iowa) he would be backing McCain. Or perhaps he is just angling to change parties and run again in future. Once a politician…. always a politician.

  18. Why would he back Obama? Another politician turned retarded!

  19. It doesn’t show balls to cross party lines to endorse the opposing candidate for president. The brits call this “taking the piss”, and in Jim Leach’s case, it is probably to curry favor with the democrats, who hold a majority in Iowa, the congress, and in his mind in the future, the white house. So for what is he angling? Some, like Steve Deace say the presidency of U of I. May be a cabinet position. Whatever the case, he is not a republican.

  20. Katie Tunstall says

    WooHoo! First to broadcast a press release! Your colleagues must be so proud.

  21. Old Trooper says

    So Leach endorses a Marxist community organizer new kid on the block Senator from the communities that are crime ridden. Leach is no longer an Iowan, he lives in New Jersey. It makes perfect sense to me.
    Folks that spent too much time in public office live a seperate reality, much like Harkin.

  22. Eddie McKinley says

    you don’t know what’s best for our country.

  23. have known the leach family for 55 years and have had the greatest respect for the parents and older brother bob. have contributed to jims campaigns for many years.i always respected jim for his honesty and integrity but this endorsement is beyond me. i feel violated and insulted by jims endorsement of obama.

  24. Libbet Brooke says

    I will always remember where I was when I heard the radio interview announcing Jim’s endorsement of Obama. It has been years since I’ve done a “WHOOO-HOOO” in my car – not once, but three times. And the windows were open for all in traffic to hear. Jim has given me a new HOPE. To the list of qualities we admire about Jim Leach, we can add courage.

  25. I hope you will at least resign your position as a Republican Congressman. You should actually apologize as you have not fulfilled your responsibilities to represent the people that elected you.

  26. Dr. Nick Stage-PHD. says

    LEACH always was a “closet socialist”.
    Now, we see the TRUTH!!
    Good riddance, “mister” Leach!

  27. Martha Sue Smith says

    My husband was Jim Leach’s Des Moines County Treasurer many years ago! He, after last night (the opening of the Democratic Convention), is turning over in his grave!!! Jim, what are you thinking???? We held at least two fund raisers for you in our house in Burlington….WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?????

  28. Charles Powell says

    Jim Leach’s career in government and public
    service has set a new standard for integrity.
    But he is a private citizen now and is entitled to support whomever he wishes and say whatever he likes.
    His choice of candidates and the words he used to express that choice were carefully thought out and quite frankly were the highlight of the week.

  29. Jerry Chaffee says

    Jim, I voted for you for years because you were in the Republican philosophies. But now, what the hell are you thinking??????? Have you even listened to part of the media that reveals Obama’s background with radicals??? Hey, Jim,look around and see what is happening! Islamic influences are spreading in the US and Europe is already in trouble with radical islamists. You seem to ignore this and ignore the background of Obama with his connections with Ayers, Wright and other extremists. What the hell are you thinking???????

  30. Jim Leach is not alone. Many republicans, including me, are voting Obama. McCain has managed to destroy the Republican party in just a few weeks. With his mind rapidly declining the prospect of Todd & Sarah running the country are real. Is that what you want??

  31. I agree – its time for Leach to say bye bye.
    Socialists are not welcomed here!