May 2nd, 2009
01:48 PM ET
12 years ago

Top Republicans kick off campaign to reshape their party's image

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says Republicans must lead the American Revolution."]

ARLINGTON, Virginia (CNN) -  Three prominent GOP leaders kicked off a campaign Saturday to reshape their party's image, gathering at a restaurant in Northern Virginia for the first of a series of town hall meetings.

The goal of the initiative, called the National Council for a New America, is to connect Republican leaders with voters across the country to help get the party's electoral fortunes back on track.

"Certainly our party has taken its licks the last few cycles, but that's why we're here," said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. "The reality is the prescriptions coming out of Washington right now are not reflective of the mainstream of this country."

"It's time for us to listen a little bit, learn a little bit," said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who advised Republicans to work on the party's message and "not be so nostalgic."

"I would say you can't beat something with nothing. The other side has something. I don't like it, but they have it," said Bush, who repeatedly praised President Obama's tactical approach to politics, and commended his 2008 campaign as "forward-looking."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney compared the GOP to Americans fighting the British during the Revolutionary War. "We are the party of the revolutionaries, they [Democrats] are the party of the monarchists," he told the overwhelmingly Republican crowd, saying the Republicans needed to "once again lead the American Revolution."

He blamed Washington for setting in motion policies that led to the collapse of the housing market, and painted his party's current minority status as a boon.

"We have an advantage," said the former Republican presidential candidate. "When a party has the White House, communication comes [from the] top down, and there's a strategy that everyone has to march behind." Instead, he said, the GOP had the option of drawing its strategy from the grassroots.

"We don't have to come up with all the answers today. Thank goodness, we have a little time," he said. "Certainly by 2010, we better."

The venue - a packed pizzeria in an Arlington strip mall - had the feel of a small-town campaign stop Saturday morning, with a supportive crowd tossing friendly questions at the panel. But outside the front doors of the establishment were twin reminders of the challenges facing the party.

The parking lot out front, even with the heavily Republican crowd inside, was dotted with Obama bumper stickers. Northern Virginia has shifted solidly Democratic in recent elections, and surrogates for John McCain's campaign made a series of statements late in the race that acknowledged the party had all but conceded the area.

But the handful of peaceful protesters out front weren't Democrats - they were conservatives upset over the new group's agenda and leadership. They brandished signs criticizing McCain, calling the NCNA "RINOs" - Republicans in
Name Only - and urging them to push for stricter immigration enforcement.

McCain is prominently featured in materials for the new group.

Health care, education and small business growth were all major topics of discussion Saturday - but immigration was one entry on a long list of potentially divisive social issues that went unmentioned.

Cantor told journalists that the group was not avoiding any topic, although the group's Web site and YouTube video released did not mention abortion, same-sex marriage, or any of the hot-button issues vital to the social conservatives that form a
significant part of the party's base.

"Any topic will be included in the national dialogue," he said. "There are no limits."

Filed under: Eric Cantor • Jeb Bush • Mitt Romney • Republican Party
soundoff (174 Responses)
  1. Texas Teacher

    The grand ole party is in trouble and both their old men head men expect us to believe they have a chance in hell to redeem themselves!

    Obviously, they think most of us have already forgotten the last 8 years and now believe that Obama and the dems are responsible for the mess we are in! It's almost too ludicrous to believe! And they wonder why they are sinking into the Abyss.... ?

    May 2, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  2. Oregonian

    "We are the party of the revolutionaries, they [Democrats] are the party of the monarchists," he told the overwhelmingly Republican crowd, saying the Republicans needed to "once again lead the American Revolution."
    That's FUNNY! The Monarchissts were Conservatives! If we liberals had listened to them we would still be following the Queen.

    May 2, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  3. xMil

    Grief... Romney now wants to mis-align the Brits. Nice go Mit. Thought we won that war a long nuber of years ago AND they were are most trusted allies since then.

    Goes to show, be a winner 200 yrs ago, set a framework of mutual respect and work together against foes. Now find that Mit is still stuck in the 1700's and anti- Brit.

    Maybe Mit, should find a new venue where where what happened 2-10k yrs ago is carvered in stoned and he is the only 'reader' of that stone.

    If Mit can provide a solution [or any] to any of the problems, I'd listen.
    So far................ Just a bunch of has beens. GOP – means G [Gone] O[Off] P[People]. So has he without a clue with his $$$ funding his butt.

    May 2, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  4. ron

    These are last year's top Republicans trying to re-start their old campaigns. The conservative voters will choose their own leaders, thanks, but no thanks, media.

    May 2, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  5. Burnt Fur

    Mitt Romney is one of the MEANEST people I have ever had to endure in my life, having had to watch him use the populace and political stereotyping of Massachusetts residents to his advantage as a vehicle for presidency. To use this utterly divisive, two-faced at every moment just to spit out the right phrase for the press, SLICK face job is just the kind of desperate attempt to woo back the same false sense of power the Republican party just got ripped out from under them.

    May 2, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  6. Texas Teacher

    sorry...I meant to say both their old men head men and their out of touch crony Snake Oil media expect us to believe they have a chance in hell of redeeming themselves? The are out of touch, out of ideas, and out of lies that work... and they have dug themselves into a hole and they are not smart enough to stop digging!

    May 2, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  7. sandee in Portland

    How about no parties at all! How about people running on their own beliefs and not those of their party. How about term limits on all politicians so they can't be in office long enough to become self-serving of their own best interests and not those of the general populace.

    As a life long republican until last year, I am now an independent. Enough of the republicans and democrats. Neither party cares about the people, they only care about their own platforms that will best serve their party's belief.

    May 2, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  8. Ray Fisher

    They need some values and integrity. GOP administrations need a cabinet not a cluster flock!!!

    May 2, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  9. Steve from Somerset

    The Republican Party deserves to be where it is today.

    It controlled the White House and both houses of Congress when the events of 9/11 occurred, it failed to capture or kill Osama ben Laden, it never apprehended those responsible for the anthrax attack, it launched an unjustified invasion without sufficient manpower, and sent many of our soldiers into combat without body armor.

    It claimed to be pro-life even as the President attended the Olympics in China, a nation where abortion is compulsory. It pushed for elections in Gaza and the West Bank leading to the Hamas victory. It strengthened Iran by devastating its unfriendly neighbor Iraq. It poured billions in aid to Pakistan even as that government's leadership sought an armistice with the Taliban.

    It told us it knew where the weapons of mass destruction were, that our troops would be welcomed as liberators, that the cost of the invasion would be covered by Iraqi oil revenue, proclaimed Mission Accomplished, and refused to fire the stunningly incompetent Secretary of Defense until after the November 2006 elections.

    It presided over the drowning of an American city, politicized the Justice Department, turned a surplus into a deficit, allowed our Southern border to remain virtually wide open, sought to federalize our local schools with No Child Left Behind, and ignored the warning signs as our economy approached the precipice.

    Should anyone be surprised that the Republican Party has lost control of Congress and the Presidency? It belongs in political purgatory and may follow in the footsteps other once great parties such as the Federalists and the Whigs.

    May 2, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  10. Jeff

    As someone once said, you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig!
    I still can't believe the party of family values may let Palin or Gingrich run to get the nomination in 2012. As Palin would say: Well, alright, yep, that's rebuilding the GOP image alright,

    May 2, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  11. Simmy

    Touche 'The Unshrub' - so funny....Just the other day they were indeed spouting something else (don't recall at moment)....
    But get this; In another article, they said they left Washington for the 'burbs' because "Obama and the Democrats control Washington." Dare I say copy cats? Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't President Obama begin the concept of leaving DC to meet with everyday Americans (Townhall Mtgs)? How ironic that now they are attempting to paint Washington as 'too establishment' because they feel powerless. If the tables were turned, you can bet they would be in Washington doing their thing.

    It's too funny.....They knew they needed a person of diversity, and didn't dare bother with Steele, because he is too toxic. So they took Jindal along....Steele is head of the party, and he's not even a member of their council for a new America....

    I am so in love with politics right now....No one on the "West Wing" tv show could have written a dramedy such as is unfolding before our eyes.....Not even Spielberg could have scripted what we are now witnessing.....I am absolutely thrilled about my President, VP, and their families. We have an A+ administration. The world is taking notice....Peace.

    May 2, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  12. An Independent

    It's pretty simple, really.

    Ignore the religious extremists.
    Break away from the people that incite hatred of anyone that's not like them and doesn't agree with them on every issue.

    Re-establish two priorities that used to be important to Republicans:
    1) Fiscal responsibility. This means balanced budgets with a tax rate that can cover government spending. (That means all spending, including "supplemental" spending for things like wars.) The Republicans went astray when their goal changed from balancing the budget to cutting taxes no matter how far in debt that puts us.
    2) Keeping the government out of people's lives. This used to be important to Republicans. Now they seem to have no problem with government mandates that support things they believe in. They need to get back to keeping government out of people's lives as much as possible. That means letting them choose who they want to have sex with, what medical decisions to make about their own bodies, and other things like curtailing the excessive restrictions that the TSA has imposed.

    Do those things and I might vote for Republicans again. As long as they continue to try to impose their particular religious beliefs on everyone, use the government as a tool to advance their outdated ideas, and vilify anyone that dares disagree with them, I'll be voting for someone else.

    May 2, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  13. William

    Wow, they really are out of touch with reality aren't they? It isn't the GOP's image that needs to change, but their political philosophy. Only a benighted few still subscribe to their politics of division, intolerance, militantism, laissez-faire capitalism and hatred. The modern Republican Party has become the antithesis or the American political idyll. The only real change will come when they purge the party of the ultra-right wing element and return to their roots of real fiscal conservatism, the idea that government stays out of the private lives of citizens, and "it it ain't broke, don't fix it." The party pays lip service to these ideas, but they no longer practice them.

    May 2, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  14. The party of no

    Republican's you can stick a fork in it. You're done. Palin, Alan Keyes, Limbaugh, Joe the Plumber, Ann Coulter, Steele... and you know we can go on. Forget about it. Your the party of low I.Q. toting your guns – losers. No not all, but far too many.

    May 2, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  15. ROC

    Here's a way to reshape the party: new faces

    May 2, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  16. The party of no

    The party of no leaders, vision, intelligence, diversity, or ideas. Just no – sense. If I have to hear Palin with her run on, no ending, non-sensible sentences again........Or Joe the non Plumber whose name is not Joe or see Rush Limburgh jumping up and down like he asked his maid to get him some more drugs again...... ha, ha, ha. Get lost Republicans.

    May 2, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  17. carolinacajun

    Nancy May 2nd, 2009 4:21 pm ET

    No only have they become the party of NO- they are the party with NO leaders.
    Republicans are the party of no? Hmm. Let’s see.
    Allow unborn children to live? Democrats just say “no”
    Protect Americans by providing temporary, minor discomfort to people who slaughtered thousands of Americans? Democrats just say “no”
    Use energy sources that have been proven to work well and drill for said energy sources? Democrats just say “no”
    Allow poor minorities to have a choice in the education of their children? Democrats just say “no”
    Give tax breaks to small business owners so that they can afford to hire those poor minorities? Democrats just say “no”
    Allow companies who made poor management decisions to learn from their mistakes? Democrats just say “no”
    Allow law abiding citizens to purchase and carry weapons with few regulations? Democrats just say “no”
    Allow the government to wiretap the phones of those who pose a potential threat? Well, Obama says “yes” but most Democrats just say “no”

    Who is the party of “no”?

    May 2, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  18. Debra

    What the Dopes for Nope group don't get is that the PR nonsense of words over deeds has been uncovered. We know the tricks of the GOP and underneath the words is the same mean, uncaring, divisive, no new ideas that we've had for the last 8 years. Sorry Mitt and Jeb, you still represent the 1% of money in this country, the same deregulation for big companies, banks, and your 'no tax' BS is only for the big guy. Holding a PR 'we're back' Klan rally doesn't convince anyone that you understand how YOU brought America down. Remember Jeb, how you stole the election for your brother? That Florida is long gone. And Mitt, how many states are you going to run away from, before you can claim success as a leader. A bunch of losers, the whole lot. Why don't you wait a decade and THEN recreate yourselves.

    May 2, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  19. Tulsa L

    They are the same old men trying to revive and old party of old white men, with old ideas...............

    May 2, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  20. hypocrites_are_everywhere

    With deep respect for Romney and all so-called conservatives, religiously-righteous folks...

    You can bet that Romney touches himself just as often as you, me, the Boston child abusing priests (the Vatican folks that protected them for decades), Newt Gingrich, Larry Craig, Ted Haggard, etc. do!

    And basic biology seems to indicate that your hands share the same genetic makeup with the rest of your body!

    May 2, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  21. shoegazer

    Reshape their image?You can't make chicken salad from chicken........

    May 2, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  22. Wow!

    Jeff May 2nd, 2009 4:47 pm ET
    As someone once said, you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig!

    You got that right - and I'm talking about the libs here!

    May 2, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  23. John

    They're clueless, I don't see how bringing out the same old people (with the exception of Jindal, the token minority guy) can possibilly change their image. They've even got a Bush!

    May 2, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  24. C W

    Hellooooooooo, GOP! You guys just don't get it: The American people want substance from their leaders, not just pretty packaging.

    Barack Obama won the Presidency because he spent 22 MONTHS campaigning all across the country – not just in the Blue states, but in every state. Why? Because he wanted to be President of the United States of America. He wanted to listen and talk to everyone and not just play to his "base".

    That kind of dedication, stamina and perserverance are what won him the election. Because during that time, the electorate had the opportunity to hear him and see him many, many times. He was interviewed, vetted, rumored-about and in general, lived under a microscope. And what happened?

    – We learned Barack Obama has intellect and the temperament for the job of President of the U.S. and leader of the free world;

    – We saw his ability to stand up with grace and maturity to adversity from his opponents from within and without his party;

    – We saw in him the kind of leader our country needs during these very challenging times.

    No amount of "image make-over" will fix the GOP; they need to change from the party of divisive, hateful, untruthful, power- and money-hungry people to a party that truly wants to bring people together for the betterment of all of us, and not just their select "club".

    May 2, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  25. Brian Thompson

    Why doesn’t someone ask Jeb Bush how he, privatizing services in the State of FL has worked out? If spending 70% more for services while creating layers and layers of administration-bureaucracies to conduct these services is a good fix, we are definitely in trouble.

    He fired all those State employees, just to create new "privatized" bureaucracies all the while paying themselves much more than any state worker without regulation of how the money is being spent and the irony is that all the upper management of these privatized organizations are prior state employees being funded by tax payer dollars.

    Moreover, since none of these private organizations, now contracted with the state, actually raise income, isn’t privatized just a word used to fool the people. All funding for these “privatized” organizations is taxes, yours and mine and the service they provide is costing us millions more.

    What a joke, he helped make FL less financially secure.

    Please Jeb stay out of government, your loathing for government does not allow you a clear perspective to create policy, especially when your main accomplishment alone was bankrupting the state so all your friends can have high-ticket contracts and get rich without any oversight.

    May 2, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
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