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. Anonymous

    Not from kansas,,,,,,,, but he's not as dumb as the rest of the republicans.

    January 29, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  2. Frank, Las Vegas

    "Our principles are universal. They apply to everyone." YOU WISH. The GOP (Grand Obstructionist Party) has become the party of "No". The country gave President Obama and the Democratic Party a mandate in November and the GOP think they have a mandate. President Obama met with the House Republicans, reduced his spending on infrastructure to give the GOP their tax breaks (which don't work), and how did they respond? Not one vote! The GOP's numbers will be even smaller in 2010 and smaller yet in 2012. In this modern age (which the republicans still don't get) of the internet, the GOP will find out that people no longer forget events of the past. More and more people will remember the names of the obstructionists, where it's most important, in the voting booth. The standard GOP lies no longer work on an informed public. So to the GOP, we simply say goodbye.

    January 29, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  3. Conservatism's the Problem

    Certain conservative ideas hit their limit and collapsed. These included deregulation and trickle-down economics. Only an angry stubborn and relatively ignorant minority clings to these positions. But they're the base of the GOP, and that's why it's stuck.

    This won't change by putting lipstick on a pig. The basic ideas of the Republican Party need to be changed.

    January 29, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  4. Lisa in Az

    What is unreal to me is that they seem SO completely unaware of why this is happening. It is because they refuse to change or adapt-look how they all voted NO yesterday. And they cling to old ideas. They come across as the stodgy, white, old party. AND, I hate to tell Mitch, but the middle don't like them either!! They need to get with the times or they will become completely irrelevant.

    January 29, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  5. Greg in Colorado

    Oh my gosh!!! They are finally catching on? What took so long? I thought that party was for the haves and the have mores? They have completely lost me and will never get me back. Too bad.

    Moving on....

    January 29, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  6. PATC

    OK First of all if you want credence to your story make sure you have the correct state from where the Senator comes from. Kansas? Boy you really proofed your story and researched it didn't you. McConnell is from Kentucky.

    January 29, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  7. Eric

    SHOCKER!!!! REPUBLICANS ARE A REGIONAL PARTY!??? SAY IT ISNT SO!!!

    January 29, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  8. Marie

    Isn't McConnell from Kentucky not Kansas!

    January 29, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  9. Beverly, NYC

    Took long enough for the Republicans to realize that their votes are now irrelevant. Mr. McConnell you sound to level headed to be a Republican, it's never too late to change parties. You can always go independent. Given the rhetoric of the men up for leadership of the RNC I don't hold much hope for your party.

    January 29, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. Lisa in CA

    May this life-long Democrat offer some advice? Stop listening to and allowing Rush to be the definition of your party. Start becoming more socially liberal while still maintaining fiscal responsibility. Start advocating sex education rather than anti-abortion. And offer more real solutions to our country's problems. Tax cuts are not the answer to everything - especially when they lean heavily towards business.

    Oh, and BTW, you can't really blame Bush. You controlled Congress for 6 of his 8 years and apparently didn't meet a spending program or tax cut you didn't like.

    January 29, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  11. Cammi317

    "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," LOL!

    January 29, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  12. mtv

    And if the Repubs continue to Rally a Full vote Against the the President who the People chose............they will continue to fall into oblivian..........well over 30 Repubs were going to vote in favor of the stimulus and got muscled down by their own party...........in a bad time like this............and you wonder why you continue to be so unpopular

    January 29, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  13. Snake eyes

    Someone is talking sense in the GOP....but may be too late. or maybe done in by his own people.

    January 29, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  14. Carmine Abbattiello

    McConnell should realize that his party's suffering is nothing compared to what his party has inflicted on the majority of Americans. It will be a long time before I vote for a republican again, with their voodoo economics, deregulation of banks, kowtowing to the oil industry, and neglect of the common man.

    January 29, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  15. Disgusted

    Maybe I misread and I certainly don't like to claim him, but Mitch McConnell is a Senator from Kentucky...

    January 29, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  16. Jeremy

    Correction: he's a Kentucky Republican, but I'd be willing to swap him to Kansas for a player to be named later.

    January 29, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  17. Noah from Chicago

    McConnell is from Kentucky, not Kansas

    January 29, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  18. Amber

    Ways to reinvigorate the Republican Party:

    * Start using the new technologies to interact with more people
    * IGNORE everything Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly say
    * Start being the party of fiscal conservatism once more – not just when a Democrat is at the helm of the presidency.
    * Dump the religious right – they are choking the vitality out of your party
    * Embrace environmental and resource conservatism a la Teddy Roosevelt
    * Start embracing a "free market" not a "free-for-all market" approach

    January 29, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  19. chris24

    McConnell was one of the worst of the formerly powerful
    Republicans and now he says they need to change.

    Maybe he should retire and give us the change he speaks of.
    Funny how losing makes you think.

    January 29, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  20. Retired Army in San Antonio

    Mitch McConnell – – – – – January 29th, 2009

    "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,"

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Wow, Mitch. That pretty much leaves average White folks as the only Party members.

    Yep......better do something to fix that or the republicans will be regionalized...........and marginalized.

    January 29, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  21. Frank

    McConnell is from Kentucky....

    January 29, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  22. nick

    Oh oh, a descention in the ranks.... or is it just the ultimate intellectual, moral, and current social standard of the Republican party?

    January 29, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  23. Michael

    I believe senator McConnell represents Kentucky – not Kansas as stated in the article.

    January 29, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  24. Dili Oputa

    Thank you Sen. McConnell! There, lies the wake up call to the GOP. However, the million dollar question is, will the GOP leadership listen?

    DO.

    January 29, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  25. MsRotten

    GOP = GREEDY OPPOSITION PARTY

    RepubTards are well on their way to EXTINCTION!! Good riddance!!

    January 29, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
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