Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, called by Economist magazine "the most powerful man in the Republican party," predicts better days ahead for embattled GOP chair Michael Steele and Republicans in 2010 Senate contests.
Up to speed soon
"I think it is safe to say that Michael Steele has gotten off to kind of a rough start. But we think he will hit is stride soon," Senator McConnell said at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters.
This week Steele had to backtrack from comments he made in a magazine interview about abortion being an individual choice. Earlier, he criticized conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh and then apologized.
Better recruiting climate
McConnell said he had tried to recruit Republicans to run for the Senate in the last two election cycles and "it was really hard."
"The president was unpopular; people were in a sour mood," he said. "I am optimistic that we are going to do a lot better in candidate recruitment in this cycle than we have in the last two. And it is kind of stating the obvious, the better candidate you have, the more likely you are to win."
He declined to offer an opinion on the 2010 race in his home state of Kentucky. "I don’t have any observations about the Kentucky Senate race," he said. McConnell is widely viewed as having troubled relations with Senator Jim Bunning, the Republican incumbent in the race.
See you in the middle
President Obama could get a great deal of cooperation from the 41 Senate Republicans if he opted to govern from the middle, McConnell said. "He has made the call here in the first two months that he wants to take us pretty far to the left. It is his choice. If he will meet us in the middle, he will find an extraordinary level of cooperation. But my members and myself are not going to be signing on to the kinds of proposals you have been seeing -- this stimulus package, this budget. These are not centrist moves," he said.
The Minority Leader had praise for President Obama's policies on Iraq and Afghanistan. At a briefing for Congressional leaders, "the President was basically, from my point of view ... announcing a continuation of the policies for Iraq and Afghanistan. And I want to congratulate him for having the courage, given where he started out on that issue, to adjust his sails and to pursue a policy in both places essentially set in place by the previous administration," McConnell said.
Of course, that kind of praise from the Republican leader in the Senate is not likely to help the President’s relations with the left wing of his party.
Using the crisis
McConnell accused the President of using the nation's financial crisis to push through a liberal agenda. "The problem most of us have is that we sense they are kind of putting off fixing housing and the financial system and using the crisis to advance goals that they have had for 20 or 30 years which have not historically had a whole lot of appeal to most of my members," he said.