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GOP in tatters, looks to regroup


Published - Nov 05 2008 09:03PM EST | AP

By LIZ SIDOTI - Associated Press Writer

So much for a lasting Republican majority.

The Republican Partyis essentially in tatters, and not that long after George W. Bush's2000 election spurred talk of enduring GOP dominance.

John McCain's shellacking and Tuesday's congressional losses leaves the party searching for a new leader and identity.

"It's time for the losing to stop. And my commitment to you is thatit will," House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio told his rank and fileafter the party lost at least 19 congressional seats _ on his watch.

Sayingthe party's image has been tainted by "scandals and broken promises,"Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina declared: "We have got to clean up,reform and rebuild the Republican Party before we can ask Americans totrust us again." He called for party leaders to "embrace a bold newdirection" or hit the road.

Indeed, a leadership shuffle brewed in the House.

Boehnerannounced he will seek two more years as Republican leader. But Rep.Adam Putnam of Florida, the No. 3 Republican, was "reluctantly"stepping down from his post. And a GOP official said Virginia Rep. EricCantor intends to run for the second-ranking spot. The current whip,Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, was considering his options but did notimmediately announce a bid to keep his job, a sign that he'll likelystep aside.

Plenty of Republicans from the conservative to theliberal wings of the party agree the GOP is in shambles as the Bushpresidency comes to a close, leaving the party without a titular leaderwhen the president's term ends in January.

"Nationally, the Republican Party is going to go through a Dr. Phil, self-analysis moment," Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said.

Nearlytwo dozen prominent conservatives planned to meet in Virginia onThursday to try to chart a path going forward. A fight for thechairmanship of the Republican National Committee is expected; severalstate party chiefs are maneuvering for the top national job even thoughMike Duncan is said to want to stay in the post. And plenty ofprospective White House hopefuls seem to be lining up for the chance torun against President-elect Obama in 2012.

McCain running mate Sarah Palin has signaled that she will remain onthe national political scene. She says: "I'm not doing this fornaught." Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who lost the nominationthis year, has restarted his political action committee. And, LouisianaGov. Bobby Jindal is heading to the leadoff caucus state of Iowa onNov. 22 to deliver the keynote address to a conservative group. Anynumber of other Republicans may test the waters as well.

RNCChairman Duncan said it would be wrong to view the election results as"the death rattle of American conservatism," pointing to a roster ofGOP rising stars that includes Palin, Jindal, Cantor and Sen. JohnThune of South Dakota.

Republicans, Duncan said, "are going totake a deep breath and listen to the American people." The party iscreating a new online forum that will allow people to explain "how welet them down" and "what we can do to restore confidence in our party,"he said.

Tuesday's electoral losses for the GOP culminate a campaign thattook place in an extraordinarily challenging political environment forthe party in power amid two lingering wars and a spreading economiccrisis. Bush's job approval ratings are at record lows and much of thecountry is demanding change.

Republicans were severely punished _ for the second straight election.

McCain'sloss to Obama in an Electoral College landslide dramatically reordersthe divided political map that's been the norm during the last twoelections. Obama won in traditionally Republican states like Indianaand gained ground in just about every demographic group, including thefast-growing Hispanic bloc that Republicans have courted.

InCongress, House Republicans lost at least 19 seats, just two yearsafter losing 30 seats and House control. Democrats now have locked upevery seat in the Northeast.

Senate Republicans, for their part,will lose at least five seats, although the GOP blocked a completeSenate rout and thwarted Democratic hopes for a 60-vote majority neededto overcome Republican filibusters.

It's all quite a reversal from just eight years ago, when it was the Democrats in disarray.

In 2001, Bush set up shop in the White House with Republicans firmly in control of both the House and Senate.

His chief strategist, Karl Rove, envisioned building a long-termRepublican majority by broadening the party's base in part by buildingsupport among women, labor groups and Hispanics.

Two years later,Rove said: "Political parties kill themselves, or are killed, not bythe other political party but by their failure to adapt to newcircumstances."

That turned out to be true _ for the GOP.

"The party just simply lost its way," said Republican Dick Armey,the former House majority leader from Texas. "It was no longer aboutsmall government and individual liberties ... and the party becameenormously unattractive to the American people."

Many point to the Iraq war _ and anger over how it was handled _ as just the start of the troubles.

"Tryas it might, the party has been unable to get it off its back," saidFrank Fahrenkopf, a former RNC chairman. He also pointed to HurricaneKatrina and a spate of scandals, including the leak of a CIAoperative's identity, as kindling that fueled distrust of governmentand disgust with the GOP.

By 2006, the country issued a doublerepudiation of Bush and the party, giving Democrats control of both theHouse and the Senate.

Two year later, the GOP lost the White House in Obama's barrier-breaking election as the first black president.


Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor in Washington and Brian Bakst in St. Paul, Minn., contributed to this report.

Entry #151


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