11/09/08 — Party leaders revisit 2008 election, look to next fight

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Party leaders revisit 2008 election, look to next fight

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 9, 2008 9:27 AM

In every election there are winners and losers, and on Tuesday when the final tallies were announced, it was the Republican Party coming up short while the Democrats celebrated.

For county Democratic Party Chairman Bronnie Quinn, it was a successful end to a long run, and the validation of his party's message of change.

For county Republican Party Chairman Mark Corbett, the results were more disappointing, and, to him, a harbinger of the changes his party needs to make.

"Nationally and statewide, I think the Republican Party has got to take a real long, hard look at itself and return to its core principles," he said. "I think it's gone much too far to the left. I heard people saying they look at the Republican Party and the Democratic Party and don't see any differences, and I think that's a problem."

And, he continued, while some pundits might believe that a further tack toward the center would be the best way for the Republican Party to compete with Democrats for the independent vote, he disagrees.

"Is our country more center left now instead of center right? I don't know. I don't think that's a winnable battle. I could be wrong, but while I think the Republican party has struggled, I don't think the core tenets of conservatism have changed," he said.

The key, he believes, will be how a Barack Obama administration and Democratic-controlled Congress govern.

"Based on their campaign, if they govern hard to the left, my core beliefs say that won't work," Corbett said.

If that happens, he added, then the Republicans might have a chance at recouping some of their losses in the next two to four years -- but only if the party can regain its footing.

"I'm hopeful. I don't know if I'd say I'm confident. It's going to take time. There's going to be some internal shifts of power among folks," he said. "We've elected these folks (the Democrats), so let's sit back and see how they do. I hope they do well because first and foremost I'm an American, but time will tell."

And that's all Quinn is asking people for -- time for President-elect Barack Obama to get his team in place and begin addressing the nation's problems.

"We're in a deep mess," he said. "President-elect Obama has been calling for unity and bipartisanship, and hopefully people will respond to that and give him time to get his policies in place and see if they're going to work.

"There's going to have to be a tightening of the belt, and when we eliminate the war in Iraq, that's $10 billion a month we can save. If I understood the speech (he gave on Election Night), he said that he's going to take a line-by-line look at what we're spending, and I think we have to take him at his word. I think he'll govern from the middle."

But, he said, if he doesn't, then he and the Democratic Party deserve to be voted out.

"It's like I said that night, we've got the airplane now. If we crash, it's our fault. If in two years the people don't like what's happened, they'll reduce our numbers in Congress, and if they don't like it in four years, they'll kick us out entirely," Quinn said.

On the local level, however, both parties held their own, neither one gaining a seat they did not hold before, but neither losing a seat either -- a result Corbett attributed to "too many gerrymandered districts."

"We had some good candidates, but locally we've got to do a better job of getting more people involved. We've got a good core of folks who have been involved for a long time, and we've just got to widen our net," Corbett said. "A tremendous amount of Democrats just pulled straight ticket. The districts we won were districts that are heavily Republican."

It was a pattern that Quinn noticed, too.

"I felt real good. I'm very pleased. You always want to win everything, but we just had some districts that were probably more conservative than the people running -- like Ronnie (Griffin, who lost to Efton Sager for House District 11). Ronnie was a good candidate, but I knew that was going to be a hard district to win."

The other problem, Corbett noted, is that "attracting common sense, level-headed people to run is a difficult thing."

"It's gotten so arduous and costs to much money now, and it's so nasty and personal. I think there are a lot of good people who would run but for those reasons," he said.