Excerpts from a Monitor breakfast with the chairman of the Republican National Committee
Ed Gillespie, a New Jersey native, is a graduate of Catholic University of America in the District of Columbia. While in college, he started his political career serving as a Senate parking lot attendant.
Mr. Gillespie learned the political game working for over a decade as a top aide to House Majority Leader Richard Armey and then as director of communications and congressional affairs at the Republican National Committee under Chairman Haley Barbour.
Before moving to the RNC as chairman, Gillespie founded Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a major political consulting firm.
On the 2004 presidential race:
" [We] have a working assumption that whoever emerges from the Democratic Party primary will be a viable nominee and we are preparing for a close contest next November. We anticipate something much more along the lines of 2000 than 1984. ....
(General Wesley) Clark by the way, is to me, right now, at this juncture, another name for 'other.' I think it is as much a reflection of lack of enthusiasm for the nine who are already in there. That is not to say he may not be the one. I have no idea right now. I would not bet a nickel on any one of them at this point."
On democratic candidates' rhetoric:
"On the other side, I do believe that the rhetoric we are seeing from the Democrats today is unprecedented, is a new low in presidential politics and goes beyond political discourse and amounts to political hate speech. I do not believe the American people are going to confuse hatred for passion. People like passion in politics. But the way these Democrats talk about the president is off putting, I believe. It may energize core Democrat voters who are anti-war and anti-President Bush but I believe that it is not helping them with the broader electorate..."
On recent talk about Hillary Clinton as a possible presidential candidate:
"I do think that the speculation about Senator Clinton, and the speculation about former Vice President Gore and others possibly coming in, just as with (Wesley) Clark, is a reflection of a sense that this field as a rule there is something missing there, it is fairly weak."
On Democratic candidates and foreign policy:
"When you look at where the Democratic field is going relative to foreign policy, they are increasingly moving away from a policy of pre-emptive self-defense that the president has adopted since September 11. The American people will not accept that.
The fact is they are increasingly adopting a weak and indecisive foreign policy that smacks of the '70s, and the Democratic leadership then, and I don't think the American people are going to accept that. The American people do believe we need to continue to wage this war against terror. They do believe that if we do not wage this war against terror in places like Baghdad and Kabul, we are more likely to have it waged in Baltimore and Kansas.
So I think that our foreign policy, the president's strong and principled leadership when it comes to the war against terror and foreign policy is going to be an asset..."
On Gay marriage as a political issue:
"This is an issue that was made an issue by the proponents of gay marriage and their advocacy of gay marriage...those in favor of gay marriage seem to indicate that tolerance is no longer defined by my accepting people for who they are....I accept people for who they are and love them. That doesn't mean I have to agree or that I have to turn my back on the tenets of my faith and reject the tenets of my faith when it comes to homosexuality.
I think when people say, well, no, that is not enough, it is not enough that you accept me for who I am, you have to agree with and condone my choice. That to me is religious bigotry and I believe that is intolerance and I think they are the ones who are crossing a line here..."
On signing new, small Republican donors:
"We are seeing at the Republican National Committee a phenomenon that is worth noting this week; maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe Wednesday, we will have a million first time donors since the president took office. That is an astounding number. To have a million people that the first time they ever wrote a check to the RNC was after President Bush was sworn in. Their average contribution by the way is under $30. I think that is (a) strong a testament to the president's support amongst a broad range of voters from every state and every zip code..."