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Story highlights

This is the post-primary Never Trump movement in action

National opinion polls show Clinton leading Trump among several demographic groups, notably women voters

CNN —  

Huddled around a corner table during happy hour at the swanky St. Regis Hotel bar in downtown Washington, five young Republicans busily brainstormed how they could help Hillary Clinton become the next president of the United States.

The group included an unlikely gang of pro-Clinton foot soldiers, including a Mississippi-born Southern Baptist who got her start in GOP politics as an intern in the second Bush White House, a conservative health care policy analyst who has volunteered for anti-abortion causes and a former president of the Cornell University College Republicans.

Over glasses of wine and champagne Monday night, they kicked off the first steering committee meeting for a new organization: “Republican Women for Hillary.”

Their motivation? Stop Donald Trump.

“It’s really important that Republican leaders, especially Republican women leaders, stand up right now and say we’re not OK with Trump representing our party,” said Jennifer Lim, a group founder who works at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and has spent much of her life volunteering for Republican causes and campaigns. “This is not a position I ever wanted to find myself in. But it’s important that when things like this happen that people speak up.”

Lim’s role as a leader within the new group is independent of her day job. But earlier this week, the Chamber clashed with Trump over his embrace of protectionist trade policies, which the business group opposes.

Over the next several months, members of Republican Women for Hillary plan to provide cover for Republicans looking to speak out against Trump, whose surprising rise has torn the party apart.

Faced with a choice between Clinton and Trump, some Republicans have begrudgingly agreed to support him while others are simply opting out of the election. But for these women who founded the group, (and one man who has joined in solidarity), Trump’s bombastic style, offensive rhetoric toward women and minorities, slapdash policy “suggestions” risk destroying the party.

This is the post-primary Never Trump movement in action. Their new organization, which is not affiliated with the Clinton campaign, is part support group and part activist hub: They intend to host off-the-record social events for like-minded conservatives and sponsor get-out-the-vote efforts for Clinton. They started in May by launching accounts on Facebook and Twitter and are planning to make an appearance at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia next month.

Making the switch to openly support a Clinton for president wasn’t a decision they came to lightly, the group’s members said.

“It has been tough for me to come to this point where I can vote for a candidate who has been very against what I’ve been working for for most of my professional career,” said Meghan Milloy, who works for the conservative American Action Forum think tank and has formerly campaigned for Republicans like Trent Lott, Mitt Romney and Haley Barbour. “That being said, I can’t vote for someone like Donald Trump because he’s overtly racist and misogynist.”

Lim said she intends to knock on doors, make phone calls for Clinton and will donate to the Democratic campaign, a step she has never taken in her life.

Her temporary transition to Democratic volunteer might seem all too convenient at first: She was recently married to Tim Lim, the founder of a media buying firm called Precision and a partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive, which has a contract with the Clinton campaign. But, she said, her reasons for supporting Clinton are genuine and purely strategic. Her current activism is about stopping Trump from winning the general election, preserving the the Republican Party and the conservative values it promotes, she said.

“Our group isn’t about selling Clinton. It’s about using your vote to keep Trump out of office,” Lim said. “We’re not going to be in the business of convincing people that Hillary Clinton will be the savior of all of our policy issues. We’re trying to convince people that your vote has a political and moral purpose, and it’s important to use that.”

“This was a long road for me to get here,” she added.

It is Republican women like these that Clinton has made a concerted effort to reach during as part of her campaign.

Recent data suggest that it’s working. National opinion polls show Clinton leading Trump among several demographic groups, notably women voters. Meanwhile, an ABC News/Washington Post survey conducted in June found that 77 percent of women have an unfavorable view of Trump.

As for policy, there are only a few areas where the group’s leaders said they could agree with Clinton, which mostly involves foreign policy and trade. More importantly, however, they see her as a reasonable person—especially compared with the unpredictable Trump—and someone Republicans could possibly work with.

“We can put our differences aside to have a safer option that’s better for the country as a whole,” Milloy said. “The fear of Donald Trump is, to me, more than the fear of Hillary raising capital standards on banks.”