After defeats in back-to-back national elections, the top Senate Republican warned Thursday that the GOP risks remaining out of power in the White House and Congress unless it better explains its core principles to woo one-time faithful and new loyalists.
“The results of the two recent elections are real, and so are the obstacles we face as a party,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told the Republican National Committee on Thursday. “My concern is that unless we do something to adapt, our status as a minority party may become too pronounced for an easy recovery.”
“The situation is challenging, but it's far from irreversible,” McConnell added, a dash of optimism in an otherwise stark assessment of where the Republican Party went wrong as he provided a road map for how it can right itself.
He spoke to Republicans gathered in Washington to choose the next national chairman; five candidates are trying to unseat former President George W. Bush's hand-picked RNC chairman, Mike Duncan of Kentucky. The vote is today.
Implicit in McConnell's message was the concern that the Republican Party under Bush strayed from its beliefs, resulting in drubbings in two straight elections.
While McConnell praised Bush as a man of principle, he said: “We can all agree, sad as it is, that he wasn't winning any popularity contests. And history shows that unpopular presidents are usually a drag on everybody else who wears their political label.”
McConnell called for the GOP to embrace its conservative principles – and resist diluting its message – to bring people back and attract new rank-and-file. Still, he added: “It's clear our message isn't getting out to nearly as many people as it should. … Too often we've let others define us. And the image they've painted isn't very pretty.”
He acknowledged GOP fears that certain demographics from certain regions have shunned the party. And, he warned: “In politics, there's a name for a regional party: it's called a minority party.”
Just eight years after Republicans controlled the White House and Congress, the GOP finds itself out of power and trying to figure out how to rebound. The Democratic Party now has a broadened coalition including Hispanics and young voters.