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. (Former) Lifelong Republican for Obama, Columbia, TN

    I don't like McConnell that much, but I am impressed by his candid remarks. As a former Republican myself, I see a sad future for the GOP. They really need to stop and reflect on who they are as a national party. I still believe in conservative values and guiding the nation based on moderate conservative principles, but the GOP has evolved into a hate-filled, divisive, and exclusive party. It's not all about "big government", "pro-life", "Christian Nation", "No Gays!", policies and stances. It is about becoming the party of Ab Lincoln again.

    January 29, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  2. No Incumbents 2010

    When you do not look much different than the other party, what do you expect. We already have a national party that likes to Spend Spend Spend, we do not need 2. We already have a party that believes that Big Government is the answer to all our problems, we don't need 2.
    Republicans don't need Mavericks, they don't need Moderates, they tried that with McCain, H. W. Bush, Nixon and Ford. Republicans need to get back to the Constitutional principles of our nation's Founding Fathers. They do not need to move a little more left, quite the opposite. Republicans need to move toward what has worked for them and what the people of their party desire – Conservative Principles like that of Goldwater and Reagan. When there is no difference between the 2 parties, anything will do.

    January 29, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  3. Matt

    Ha...that picture is priceless. It's the look of a man who sees the walls crumbling all around him. The GOP house of cards is a-fallin'.

    January 29, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  4. Rachel

    McConnell and his conservatives will always be a minority party until they realize that America is a diverse nation and the only way for a diverse nation to survive is by being tolerant of people who are different. Gone is the Goldwater libertarian streak. What happened to the fiscally conservative, socially tolerant party?

    January 29, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  5. Ted Carleton

    Kansas does not lay claim to Mitch: we're still graced with Brownback and Roberts.

    January 29, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  6. Marv Balousek

    McConnell is from Kentucky, not Kansas.

    January 29, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  7. JB

    Is he just now noticing all this?

    You let other people define you? Who? You mean "others" like Mr. Saltsman, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin? Polarizing folks like that won't win you many elections.

    January 29, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  8. Sandra Dee

    I think McConnell was correct about his statements, although my guess would be that what he meant by regional party was party of the south. Nonetheless, I applaud that at least the Republicans are maybe, just maybe beginning to accept the fact that they have to change. They'd be off to a much better start, though, if they worked with Obama vs. against him.

    January 29, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  9. Voter

    It's good to see at least one major Republican acknowledge and reveal concern that the Republican Party is in grave danger of being seen as the Party of the Old South.

    They are downright whiney about the Recovery package, which is truly ironic, since the Republicans are responsible for the mess we're in right now.

    They have no humility, no shame. And it shows – boy, does it show.

    January 29, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  10. gnomepark

    The way the Republicans acted during the vote on the stimulis package tells me you are for the same 'ol "politics as usual" ...which I would have thought you would have noticed from this election....we don't want that no more.

    January 29, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  11. LiberalChris

    I really do hope that the Republican Party is marginalized to a regional "Southern" party. The way they stand right now is just pathetic. It was really telling when watching the RNC nominate McCain how many minorities there were in the crowd. It felt like watching a Klan rally.

    January 29, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  12. kayla


    January 29, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  13. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    You'll have this in a party with the wrong people and wrong ideas.

    January 29, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  14. tiff of Lithia Springs

    Just educate the ignorant people in your party sir and there maybe hope. Start with Limbaugh, Bortz, Beck and Hannity. Ignorance is a scary place to be in .

    January 29, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  15. Tom St. Louis

    Sorry to disappoint you Senator, but until the GOP abandons the politics of fear and stops using wedge issues that primarily appeal to Christian fundamentalists, voters will not be returning. The GOP needs to stop trying to dictate American moral values.

    January 29, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  16. Luke Brown

    I sympathize with McConnell, but in the past eight years Americans saw Republicans turn into a corrupt ruling party that rewarded the wealthy at the expense of working people, and recklessly led us into an unnecessary war through lies and deception.

    Mitch, I have no idea why the President is trying so hard to reach out to you people. However, in my view, you can either work with him or consign yourselves to the political trash heap for the next thirty or forty years.

    Memo to GOP in Congress: Just keep on voting against Obama, and in 2010 we'll just keep on voting against you.

    January 29, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. Konrad Herling

    Just a slight, but important correction: Sen. McConnell is from Kentucky, not Kansas.

    January 29, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  18. unknown

    He's from Kentucky

    January 29, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. Andy

    shhhh Mitch they might hear you...

    January 29, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  20. Mark, B'ham., Al.

    When the liberals realize that they are going to have to pay the taxes to support the liberal agenda they are going to vote differently like in 1980 and 1994. We can pay more in taxes for energy than it cost to produce. We can pay more in taxes for universal health care than we pay in insurance premiums. We can give the government our pay and get paid $20.00 a month like Cuba. That is what the Welfare /Nanny State will result in. The government needs to cut spending not required by the constitution! (Defense and Strong Montetary System are the only federal expense required by the constitution. The rest are entitlements!)

    January 29, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  21. AJ

    With ya hoos like McConnel running the show the GOP should be marginalized. The GOP under current leadership are nothing but a bunch of hate filled Bible banging bigots.

    January 29, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  22. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    A realist is speaking in recognition that the American pulbic has spoken. I hope the Republicans can change, grow and evolve into a substantive political force which balances, not hinders, the Democrats.

    I have the same wish for the Democrats and believe Barack is the man to lead the nation back to political sanity.

    January 29, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  23. kelly

    Mr. Minority Leader the future is now.....the republican party is finito....the only way out is to break up and start over

    January 29, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    The Senator is from Kentucky, not Kansas!

    January 29, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  25. Drew

    The fact that CNN doesn't even know what state their senate leader is from just proves further how irrelavent they are

    January 29, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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