After big losses, GOP looks to rebuild public trust
Leaders say they’ll have to examine their party’s ‘brand’ and consider new faces.
After a drubbing at the hands of voters in the last two election cycles, Republicans are regrouping around two ways out of the wilderness.Skip to next paragraph
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The other is to publicly overhaul the family brand. That means vetting the mistakes of GOP years in power – corruption, big government, and pork-barrel projects – and restoring public trust.
“What the election told us is that the American people agree with our ideas, they just don’t trust us,” says Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina, who was renamed chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, a caucus of conservative senators, on Thursday.
“[President-elect] Obama ran on tax cuts, energy independence, curbing wasteful spending. He even said he would order an audit of all federal agencies to cut out waste. The reason we are losing is that we are not acting like Republicans,” he adds. “The Senate is ruled by a few big spenders, and we’ve allowed big spenders to rule and ruin our party.”
So far, there’s little taste among congressional Republicans for circular firing squads. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Rep. John Boehner of Ohio expect to keep their jobs as Republican leaders of the Senate and House, respectively.
GOP tally from Election Day
One reason is that the losses in Campaign 2008, while significant, weren’t as massive as expected. To date, Republicans have lost six seats in the Senate and 19 in the House. Even with recounts pending, Democrats aren’t likely to reach the 60-vote threshold to ending a filibuster – the tool that allows minority party members to derail legislation or nominations they oppose. [Editors note: This paragraph was corrected to say "nominations."]
Another hopeful sign is that the US is still a fundamentally center-right nation, GOP leaders say. President-elect Obama ran on cutting taxes for most Americans and on hope, but he won’t be able to govern on those principles and satisfy pent-up demands for spending.
“America remains a center-right country,” wrote Mr. Boehner in a letter to House GOP colleagues on Nov. 5. “Democrats should not make the mistake of viewing Tuesday’s results as a repudiation of conservatism or a validation of big government. Neither should we.”
The way forward is for Republicans to learn how to win on issues, one by one, and win back public trust, he says.