September 8, 2020
Democrats Try To Win Over Military Voters Following Allegations That Trump Belittled War Dead

The Democratic Party is hoping it can score some votes among active-duty military members as well as veterans, following allegations that President Donald Trump disparaged American men who had died in World War I, The New York Times reported.

Last week, The Atlantic published allegations that, during a trip to France in 2018, Trump canceled a planned visit to a graveyard where American war dead are buried, ostensibly because of the weather. The president reportedly said that he didn't want to go there anyway because the graveyard is filled with "losers." Similarly, in another incident during that same trip, he reportedly referred to another group of American war dead as "suckers."

To Democrats, this presents an opportunity to do something they've rarely had much luck doing -- get votes from active-duty military personnel and veterans.

One group, VoteVets, has raised $2 million with a view towards persuading voters with military backgrounds in 16 battleground states to vote Democrat. To that end, they've hired Chuck Rocha, who helped craft Bernie Sanders' plan to reach Latino voters.

Rocha spoke of the new way his organization is trying to connect with voters with military backgrounds.

"What we used to put it in TV commercials now goes to hundreds of vets texting and calling other veterans. It's the same thing we did with all these volunteers with Bernie, instead of sending postcards they are having conversations with other veterans," he said.

a poll worker cleans a voting booth
Getty Images | Michael Ciaglo

Similarly, Common Defense, another veterans' organization, has recruited volunteers in Arizona, North Carolina and Maine to drum up support for Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates in those states.

However, the job of convincing military voters to vote Democratic may yet prove easier said than done. The voting bloc heavily favored Trump in 2016, and by some estimates, nearly 80 percent of them are supportive of the 45th president.

Jon Soltz, the chairman of VoteVets, notes that his group has a tall order ahead of it.

"The Atlantic story will not move Trump's base," he said.

However, he did note that the allegations open up a window in which his members can have conversations with military voters who may be on the fence.

Fred Wellman, an Army veteran and the senior adviser for veterans' affairs for the Lincoln Project -- a coalition of Republicans keen to see Trump voted out of office -- said that the Democrats don't need to move the needle too much in order to get Biden elected.

"We don't need a 10% swing with veterans... One to four percent is all we need," he said.