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. Frank

    "in grave danger of being marginalized to a regional party"?

    Well, you can stop worrying about that. It's already happened.

    Maybe all of the remaining Republicans should crowd into Texas and then secede. This time, bet no one tries to stop them.

    January 29, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  2. Daniel M

    Cut government spending, reduce taxes and stay out of our business. Get back to the Grand Old Party and you may have a young hispanic voter who could vote for you. Keep wasting money on fences, border patrol agents, drugs, unneccessary wars and supporting a so called Christian nation and I'll keep voting Libertarian. I hope you guys fix yourselves or the party collapses...

    January 29, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  3. D-MI

    Well, at least they admit it.
    They might as well go all the way and accept it, particularly if they are going to keep bowing down for Limbaugh, holding up Palin as a model politician, and remain a party of stagnant, clueless white men.

    January 29, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  4. JS

    Mitch McConnell is not from Kansas. Please edit your stories.

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

    Yet they refuse to work with Democrats. Gee!!!!!

    January 29, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. Irma in North Carolina

    Your party really went down hill when John picked Sarah for a running mate. I am proud to say that today I no longer belong to your party I went to the independent party. Your party cannot get over the fact that you lost the election and you candidate and his running mate ran a very hateful campaign. Especially Sarah with her hateful rallys she had and neither her or John tried to stop it. And you thought this would win you the election and now you are trying everything in your power to go against the New President. I can say one good thing about John he gave a very good concession speech and for once he had control over the crowd. Then Sarah thought she could also give a speech thank god the Mccain people would not let her, it would of been nothing but hate ful words that would come out of her mouth.

    January 29, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  7. once upon a horse

    perhaps if the GOP would stop following the lead of the likes of Hannity and Limbaugh both divisive polarizing figures and try to be more open to the groups he mentioned the Republicans would have a better chance. You can tell just by some of the ones that post here that they are bitter, sore losers, not willing to reach across and work with the other party and seem stuck in their little world of denial and seperation.

    January 29, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  8. Ray Fisher

    The solution is simple, instead of talking about principles they must actually adopt some principles and practice what they preach. The President's stimulus plan didn't receive a single Republican vote as they insist upon accountability and responsibility which the lack thereof during their reign is exactly why he is asking for the stimulus and America is needing a stimulus. The Republicans must be willing to accept responsibillity for our situation and then work with our President to repair our situation as a team through negotiation instead of back stabbing politics. We have a common enemy and it is ourselves and our wastefull ways we need a common solution and teamwork is the answer!!!

    January 29, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  9. JIM...TX

    Old "turtle face" has it right this time. The Republicans will be a minority party for a long time with their hatred an elitist attitude!

    January 29, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  10. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool

    The GOP lost its direction long ago, which is why the Libertarian party came about. If the GOP would just listen to the great leadership that Ron Paul writes and speaks about everyday, they would return to the status of the leading party of this great nation, and the American citizen would have their freedom and Liberty restored.

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

    He is right and as long as they lay down for every Democratic wish they will only have less support. It is time for new leadership and McConnell and McCain should be put out to pasture!

    January 29, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  12. charles urquhart

    Mitch Mconell is from Kentuky

    January 29, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    I'd just like to point out that Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky not Kansas

    January 29, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    He is from Kentucky, not Kansas, but who cares what the minority obstructionist says?

    January 29, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  15. MrObvious

    I'm sure tomorrow we'll hear an apology and retraction from him.

    January 29, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  16. Jim in San Jose

    Mitch McConnell's (from Kentucky, not Kansas) comments just go to show how out of touch the GOP is. He recognizes that the American public wants change, but he is resisting having the GOP take a hard look at it's core values and review how they mesh with the country as a whole.

    If they did take a look they would see why the republicans are going to be a minority/regional party for a long time to come. The three things that republicans need are acceptance, acceptance and acceptance. Unfortunately, the three things the republicans will never tolerate is acceptance, acceptance and acceptance.

    Better marketing isn't going to get the same old tired, obstructionist, protectionist propaganda sold to more people who are not buying.

    January 29, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  17. globalgroove

    Why do republicans all look like rejects from 'The Wizarard of Oz' auditions?

    January 29, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  18. Brian, NJ

    Good comments from the Senator. If you listen to Rush, the GOP is doomed to be the party of angry white guys.

    January 29, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  19. MattyJ

    Correction: Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky.

    January 29, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  20. Obama Victim

    not a very credible report...does not even know what state Sen McConnel represents.................it is KENTUCKY...not Kansas you morons

    January 29, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  21. Conrad

    United States Senator for Kentucky, not Kansas

    January 29, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  22. Ron Rhoten

    I think he is actually the Senator from Kentucky.

    January 29, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  23. jfs Memhis, Tn

    Mitch...........you have pinpointed some of the issues to build upon. It will be a long way back. It will take many many years to get back.......if ever. YOUNGER is where you all need to go. It is universal amongst all sex's, religions and races.

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

    Democrats are socialists and Republicans are capitalists. We have clearly and undeniably reached the point of no return where most Americans have realized that it doesnt make sense to work and earn when you can can vote in a professional politician to underwrite your new found lifestyle with other people's tax money.

    January 29, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  25. Putin still invading Alaskan airspace between Palin's ears

    D'UH! Obstructing, demonizing and the like get you nowhere, Mitch, my man.

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