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Bipartisan Group Eyes Independent Bid

"I'm an American before I'm a Republican," said former senator John Danforth (Mo.). He is unimpressed with his party's presidential candidates. (By Craig Sands For The Washington Post)
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"Our hope is that the candidates will respond with their own specific ideas about how to pull the country together, not just aim at getting out their own polarized base," Boren said. "But we will have a couple months before the nominees will be known, and we can judge in that time what their response will be."

Boren said the meeting is being announced in advance of Thursday's Iowa caucuses "because we don't want anyone to think this was a response to any particular candidate or candidates." He said the nation needs a "government of national unity" to overcome its partisan divisions in a time of national challenge he likened to that faced by Great Britain during World War II.

"Electing a president based solely on the platform or promises of one party is not adequate for this time," Boren said. "Until you end the polarization and have bipartisanship, nothing else matters, because one party simply will block the other from acting."

Danforth said he remains a Republican but finds little cause for optimism among the current GOP candidates. "My party is appealing to a real meanness," he said in an interview, "and an irresponsible sense of machismo in foreign policy. I hope it will be less extreme, but I'm an American before I'm a Republican." Danforth has also written critically about the impact of religious conservatives on the Republican Party.

Cohen said his emphasis will be on the issues rather than on a candidacy, adding that he and Nunn will co-sponsor a series of "dialogues" on key topics, aiming to build planks for a possible consensus platform for the next president.

"The important goal all of us share," Cohen said, "is to get government back to the center."

Nunn, for his part, described Bloomberg as "an enormously capable man" but said: "I've made no decision who I'm going to support. Most of us hope to shape the Republican or Democratic side's response, but who knows where this is going to go? I think the country's at the tipping point, and it's going to take a lot more understanding by the electorate for anybody to be able to lead."

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