Thursday, November 09, 2006

GOP already starts the 'blame game' over its big losses

GOP already starts the 'blame game' over its big losses
By Emily Bazar, USA TODAY

When a political party suffers a major defeat, soul-searching and ideological bickering follow.

Republicans continued that tradition Wednesday, launching a period of self-reflection by trading barbs and pointing fingers.

Commentator Rush Limbaugh accused the Republican Party of straying from its conservative ideology, saying, "This non-partisan Republican identity, that's what went down in flames." Former House majority leader Tom DeLay referred to his party's losses as a "Texas whooping" on MSNBC. He said Republicans had failed to fight for their core beliefs on such issues as tax reform and immigration.

Dick Armey, former House majority leader and an architect of the Republicans' 1994 takeover of Congress, told National Public Radio's Diane Rehm that the GOP had become the big government party. "They actually grew the government," he said.

President Bush took a jocular swipe at his top political adviser, Karl Rove, who is credited with Bush's victories in 2000 and 2004 and GOP gains in the 2002 congressional elections. "I obviously was working harder in the campaign than he was," Bush said.

Post-election finger-pointing is normal, Republican strategist Scott Reed said. "This is a big party made up of economic conservatives and social conservatives, and there will be an attempt to play the blame game," he said.

The party's self-analysis began about a month ago, when polls predicted Democratic wins, Reed said. "These efforts usually make the party go back to its fundamentals, make it more focused," he said.

Democrats went through a similar period in the late 1980s, when the presidency seemed out of reach, said Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute.

"Parties that don't engage in honest self-scrutiny rarely reform themselves," he said.

The Republican Majority for Choice, a lobbying group for Republicans who support abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research, blamed the losses Tuesday on Iraq and "social extremism," Co-chairwoman Jennifer Stockman said. "Moderates have been alienated for years. This was the last straw."

Today, the group planned to unveil a campaign and website, modeled after the liberal site, called It will begin running TV ads in Pennsylvania on Sunday, contrasting images of Republican icons like Ronald Reagan with social conservatives such as Sen. Rick Santorum, who lost his seat Tuesday.

The campaign will continue through the 2008 presidential election, Stockman said. She said, "It's all focused on making sure the Republican Party returns to the center if there's any chance of keeping the presidency and getting some of these seats back."