January 30th, 2009
09:00 AM ET
9 years ago

McConnell warns of grim GOP future

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/29/art.mcconnell1.gi.jpg caption=" McConnell painted a dismal picture of the state of his party."]
(CNN) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell painted a downright dismal view of the state of his party Thursday afternoon, telling Republican National Committee members the GOP is in grave danger of being marginalized to a regional party.

"We’re all concerned about the fact that the very wealthy and the very poor, the most and least educated, and a majority of minority voters, seem to have more or less stopped paying attention to us," the Kentucky Republican said on the second day of the four-day gathering.

"And we should be concerned that, as a result of all this, the Republican Party seems to be slipping into a position of being more of a regional party than a national one.

"In politics there's a name for a regional party, it's called a minority party," said McConnell.

The sobering remarks came one day before the 168 members of the RNC are set to elect a chairman tasked with steering the party out of its beleaguered status, and win back some of the voting blocs virtually abandoned the party last November, including minority and younger voters.

"My concern is that unless we do something to adapt, our status as a minority party may become too pronounced for an easy recovery," McConnell also said.

McConnell also laid some blame at the feet of former President Bush, whom he described a "man of principle," but one who did "not win any popularity contests."

"History shows that unpopular presidents are usually a drag on everybody else who wears their political label," he said. "It happened with Truman. It happened with Johnson. It happened with Nixon. It happened with Clinton in ‘94. And it happened in ‘06 and ‘08 with President Bush."

He said particular effort needs to be applied to attracting African American and Hispanic voters. Black voters have historically voted heavily Democratic, while Hispanic voters were significantly more Democratic than they had been in previous presidential elections.

"Too often we’ve let others define us," McConnell said. "And the image they’ve painted isn’t very pretty. Ask most people what Republicans think about immigrants, and they’ll say we fear them. Ask most people what we think about the environment, and they’ll say we don’t care about it. Ask most people what we think about the family, and they’ll tell you we don’t — until about a month before Election Day."

But McConnell addressed a a group deeply divided on where the Party should head in the next four years, a tension that has played out in the unexpectedly cut-throat race for the party's chairmanship.

The Senate Minority Leader, who faced an unexpectedly competitive race last year to retain his seat, told the Republican gathering it's not too late for the party to rebuild itself. But he warned the GOP cannot change its fundamental values in the course of trying to appeal to a wider cross-section of the country.

"You don’t get them back by pretending to be something else," he said. “And you certainly don’t gain voters by running away from the ones that are most loyal. But it’s clear our message isn’t getting out to nearly as many people as it should."

"...We should avoid the false choice of being a party of moderates or conservatives," he said. "America is diverse. The two major parties should be too. But this doesn’t mean turning our backs on commonsense conservatism, or tailoring our positions to suit particular groups. Our principles are universal. They apply to everyone."

Filed under: Mitch McConnell
soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. jdenkmire

    You, uh, may want to correct this to indicate that he is a Kentucky Republican, not a Kansas Republican.

    January 29, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  2. The One

    No kidding. It's about time you got it.

    January 29, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  3. FPD

    Since when is McConnel from Kansas?

    January 29, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  4. Ken in Dallas

    Mitch McConnell's from Kentucky, not Kansas.

    The trouble with Republican "principles" is that they're mean-spirited, and they don't work. The things they cling to are the things that have been dragging this nation into the tar pits.

    January 29, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  5. Will-South Dakota

    The Senate and House under McConnell & Boehner leadership has no credibility, time for the GOP to elect younger fresher leadership who really believes in inclusion of all not the usual good ole boys club who FAILED miserably, Boehner and McConnell offer nothing new but gridlock and obstructionists views.

    January 29, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  6. Tony

    If the Republican party moves to the left then I'm leaving the country. I refuse to be oppressed by a xenophobic, authoritarian, Socialist regime.

    January 29, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  7. worriedmom

    Sounds like someone is giving up. come on, just start sticking by your principles and not give up. We need honesty, integrity and we need for you to keep informing the public of all the pork that continues to plague DC. People were led like sheep to a slaughter on this election, that doesn't mean things will be the same the next time around. When people realize that the "One" cannot part water, then hopefully people will come back to their senses.

    January 29, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  8. Blue VA

    I don't need to hear it from McConnell. The GOP is over.

    January 29, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  9. J. Miller

    McConnell is from Kentucky, not Kansas.

    January 29, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. dark days

    The Repubs have ignored the vast majority of Americans for the last 30 years. It's called payback.

    January 29, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  11. Lesley

    Boy, did this guy ever hit the nail on the head! If the Repubs are going to re-invent themselves, they better learn the theory of bottom up, instead of trickle down. They might start by distancing themselves from hosts like Limbaugh and Hannity, too devisive and only appealing to the very entrenched of the party. There is a new political landscape. With the country falling down around everyone and the disasterous Bush administration still fresh in everyone's minds, the party really needs to find new spokesmen. They need to attract members and not scare people away if they expect to survive.

    January 29, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. MaryK

    I never thought I would say this regarding a republican, but I totally agree.

    January 29, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. S Callahan

    Oh ye people of little faith.....look to do the right thing and things can be restored. Right now, Republicans should be focused on helping build the economy up...so whole families aren't so desperate that they are killing themselves out of fear of hitting total bottom.....Again, We are our brother's keeper.
    I'll say it again...turn back to God...and all things will come to order...for any party

    January 29, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  14. No-more

    I voted Repub at one time. Then they went nuts with religion and extremism. Standing for the very wealthy, and the very angry and afraid. They feed on fear. But they need to purge the Limballs, Hanity and O'Reilly dogma. At first that would weaken them, and guess what they are afraid of that too.

    January 29, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  15. Lynn

    McConnell is from Kentucky.

    January 29, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  16. Steven R

    Mitch McConnell represents Kentucky, not Kansas, as stated in the second paragraph.

    January 29, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  17. Joe Vanderbosch

    Dump the Social views-or at least tone down the rhetoric in the North East and Upper Midwest-and you might change a few people's minds.

    January 29, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  18. Billy

    I will never fall for the GOP's tricks again.

    They don't care about anyone but the rich.

    January 29, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. John

    McConnell says GWB shares some of the blame for the GOP's decline?

    er, what was his first clue?

    January 29, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  20. jo

    Nice, it sounds exactly like what Pat Buchanan was saying 5 years ago.

    The problem is that the GOP has given up on conservatism for the last 8 years. Spending under Bush was out of control, the Neo-Cons lead us into nation building. They focused on giving tax cuts only to the wealthy instead of everyone. Then there was Katrina, the resurgence of the Taliban.

    Ya, McConnell hit the nail right on the head...it'll be interesting to see if anyone is listening.

    January 29, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  21. Patrick Lester

    McConnell is from Kentucky, not Kansas.

    January 29, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  22. dallas female

    HEAR! HEAR!!!!

    see that blue closing in on red- POOF!

    January 29, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  23. John

    Mitch is a Kentuckian...not from Kansas.

    January 29, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  24. John from Brooklyn

    McConnell is a Kentucky Republican not a Kansas Republican

    January 29, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  25. Streamwood Bill

    The quickest way for the GOP to come back is to seize control from the social conservatives who have screwed up the Republican Party almost beyond recognition.

    A melding of social moderates and fiscal conservatives will bring back the GOP in no time.

    January 29, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
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