The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 15, 2008

GOP: The party's not over

But members differ on what course to take

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, speaking to fellow Republican governors in Florida last week, said the Republican Party is in deep trouble, losing its ability to compete in large swaths of America and ceding key blocs of voters to the Democrats.

Christine Todd Whitman, former Environmental Protection Agency head and governor of New Jersey, wrote in a column in the Washington Post that her party has been taken hostage by “social fundamentalists” and won’t recover until it becomes more moderate.

Area Republicans, however, aren’t as gloomy as some of the GOP’s national leaders. They believe the party needs to become more conservative — at least fiscally — rather than less-so. And they predict the Republican Party will recover to some extent even without changes because emboldened Democrats will drag the nation farther to the left than Americans want.

“Pride goes before the fall,” said Paul Bade, a Mankato resident and self-employed electronics repairman. “Republicans got very proud six years ago. The Democrats are now. ... I think people are going to discover that Democrats aren’t the answer.”

State Rep. Bob Gunther, whose district stretches from St. James to Blue Earth, said two bad elections in a row for Republicans isn’t necessarily an indication of future performance. After all, the 2006 election was held when the Iraq war was going particularly badly and scandals were plaguing the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. This year’s election came on the heels of a sharp economic downturn.

“The economy had a lot to do with this election,” said Gunther, R-Fairmont. “For some reason, the president is to blame for that, and the current president is a Republican.”

Dire comments

Pawlenty laid out some sobering facts for his fellow Republican governors in Florida last week.

“We cannot be a majority governing party when we essentially cannot compete in the Northeast, we are losing our ability to compete in the Great Lakes states, we cannot compete on the West Coast, we are increasingly in danger of competing in the mid-Atlantic states, and the Democrats are now winning some of the Western states,” Pawlenty said in a speech to open the conference. “That is not a formula for being a majority governing party in this nation.”

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