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. Andy

    He is staring reality squarely in the face which is good. "Horror Show"- Good in Russian language.

    January 29, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  2. Eric

    SHOCKER!!!! REPUBLICANS ARE A REGIONAL PARTY!??? SAY IT ISNT SO!!! I could have figured that one out just by watching the Republican convention where only old white people with stupid hats showed up. Playing the religion and fear card apparently is working too well these days.

    NEWS FLASH: You tripled the size of the debt, committed war crimes and broke the law on a daily basis, nearly destroyed the economy with your complete and utter disregard of regulation. Why should anyone listen to anything you have to say?? Please spare us the complaints about the size of the stimulus bill. Your party wasted 10 times that amount during the last eight years and what do we have to show for it?


    January 29, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  3. Steve

    Good for McConnell. Introspection is called for here.

    My parents were moderate Republicans – the kind that snot-nosed right-wingers would call "RINOs". In their last years, they were annoyed with how the hard right was taking over their party. And now, it"s even worse. Surely, principled moderates and conservatives can once again make the GOP a party that's worthy of respect.

    For the record, I'm a liberal Democrat. But I part from some on my side in that I don't want the Republicans to be driven into the ground. If the party can decide to be more Barry Goldwater and less Sarah Palin, it can come back.

    January 29, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  4. John, Rochester MN

    Well, when you show obvious favoritism to extreme minorities (religious right, rich, big business like oil and tobacco), what do you expect? Eventually the vast majority of people that don't fit in those categories will recognize that you have done nothing for them and leave. Couldn't happen to a better party, if you ask me.

    January 29, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  5. Matt

    It's not too late, but the knell starts soon. If they were smart, they'd stop playing games, show a little contrition, acknowledge where they've gone wrong and that they need to make changes to their ideology and rhetoric. Unfortunately, from the way things are playing out with the stimulus package, it seems they've chosen to do the opposite, becoming more entrenched, insular and bitter and engaging in gamesmanship in an attempt to gain leverage for 2010's election cycle. It will backfire like all the games this past year and it's somewhat sad they don't understand that.

    January 29, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  6. EC

    THANK YOU, someone in the Republican Party with some intelligence. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Rep. Gingrey, etc. are completely daft and would rather listen to the likes of Rush Limbaugh rather than the millions of voters who made their messages VERY clear on Nov. 4th.

    The same old and tired CONSERVATIVE IDEALISM is no welcomed in the 21st Century!! Republicans just refuse to get it, they are set on self-destructing right before our eyes. It's really mind boggling.

    When you take John Boehner and Eric Canter doing nothing but complaining about this stimulus package when THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MESS to begin with!!!!

    Mitch McConnel is absolutely right, the GOP is doing their own selves in, they can't keep blaming the Democrats for their own incompetence!!

    January 29, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  7. Southern Princess

    Republicans don't like us. Vote them out of office!

    January 29, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  8. Yikes! What next

    This is a surprisingly insightful analysis by Mitch, but he could have gone a step further by suggesting they unload thugs like Rush Limbaugh.

    January 29, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  9. Mike Dallas

    "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."

    Yeah! Grab those bibles closer and keep the repub party buried deep in the neo-con redneck territory. That's surely the ticket for growth!

    Getting "back to basics" is what will win more Congressional seats in 2010, and please disregard all of these silly biased polls put out by the liberal media as it is just a conspiracy against family values!

    Go Coulter/Palin 2012.


    January 29, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  10. james in s.c.

    as the House rethuglicans voted against the stimulus bill is a vote against the American people. GOP's seems still living in Bush era and in fact still trying keep this country in the 1950's era. they just don't get it! it's time to move on if not, it'll be years for the GOP to ever rule again. also it's time for the GOP to get away from the far right wing christian fundamentalist!!

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

    The Republican base consists of three groups – white rich people, white racists, and white religious kooks. Once you figure that out, Mitch, and if you have the fundamental morality necessary to see what's wrong with it, then maybe you'll find the answers you seek. In short, your base is shrinking and increasingly irrelevant. Carry on, sir.

    January 29, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  12. msclguru

    He's Kentucky. Not Kansas.

    January 29, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  13. Darko

    This guys is an idiot. Get back to the principles that got you to the majority. It's that simple. Conservatism.

    They were conservative and successful at one point, but they didn't fight bush on his spending sprees. Tax cuts worked to bring up the economy after Clinton left and 9/11, but they borked it with all the excess spending.

    Tax cuts (let americans spend the money rather than the govt) and conservative spending by congress is key. This is the plan that has worked EVERY time. Never in our history has it failed except when one side of the equation wasn't kept.

    WE create wealth...the govt does not make money...PERIOD! It can only take what WE create.

    January 29, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  14. Dan, TX

    The republicans will be alright. They will make steady gains in every election as long as there is a democratic president. But it may not be enough to take back congressional control if Obama continues to be reasonable. Obama needs to cut the size of the rescue plan and drop the spending the republicans want dropped. But he should also not lower taxes on people and businesses with income or profits above $250,000. He should increase the amount of infrastructure spending. Spending on education, health, refinancing mortgages, and technology should stay the bill and be increased. The TV conversion stuff should be dropped. Unemployment insurance extension should be very limited.

    January 29, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  15. Lisa P

    Keep on voting in lockstep against economic recovery without putting forward an honest and pragmatic alternative and you know what? You'll stay the minority party everywhere except the regions too ignorant, blind or backwards to care. Good riddance, I say!

    January 29, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  16. Lilly

    In today world of Professionalism, all those who are Incompetent and Obsolete, will Fade Away or will be Rejected. GOP will be Eliminated because of its Failed Policies in the last 8 years, due to which we are in such a distress today. GOP really needs to CHANGE in order to survive.

    January 29, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  17. kathie crow

    mitch mc connell is cited as a kansasan in the article, which he is not..

    January 29, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  18. JL

    Well it is what republicans want, look at there behavior the past 20+ years, it's plan CRAZI. What is sad is the GOP is really thinking they are correct when reality they know they are as wrong as 3-left FEET!

    January 29, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  19. garin

    I have a feeling that the GOPs must be a lot more flexible, particularly, in matters of economics, abortion, extremely vociferous conservatism, and boisterous blurters who preach utter nonsense through radio and other media. Start by soul-searching and by bringing those vagabonds to listen to moderatism.

    January 29, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  20. kathie crow

    mr. mc connell is cited as a kansas republican in the article..which he is not..

    January 29, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  21. BB

    Don't blame Republican Senator's problems on the Shrub. You old white men are just cantankerous and you know it.

    We're tired of cantankerous. We want a government of several political ilks working together for the good of our COUNTRY -- not for a political party.

    wake up - obstructionist behavior will get you voted out.

    January 29, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  22. David

    Senator McConnell is from Kentucky...

    January 29, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  23. Chris

    McConnell is a Kentucky senator; he's not from Kansas.

    January 29, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  24. Duh

    To bad they won't listen to you Mitchy. Well not to bad for me, but bad for you. HA!

    January 29, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  25. Pam for America & Obama

    I can't wait to see who they pick to lead them!
    McConnell is right on with what he is saying. The Republicans have no room in their party for minorities, poor people, most women and certainly no gays. That just leaves rich old white men and redneck racists and they only get one vote each.
    They would prefer to listen to Limbaugh and Hannity than the American voters and that will be very telling in the 2010 elections.

    January 29, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
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