GOP Hands Are Wrung Over Party Prospects

Gov. Charles Crist, R-Fla., and Republican strategist Ed Rollins on "Face The Nation"
Gov. Charles Crist, R-Fla., and Republican strategist Ed Rollins on "Face The Nation"
CBS

With Republicans losing a third special Congressional election this week in a historically Republican district, party figures have been struggling to rebrand the GOP, refocus their outreach to voters, and stem a nationwide tide of discontent over politics-as-usual.

However, there are concerns among some Republicans about Washington-political-strategies-as-usual, such as tying local races to the Democratic presidential contenders (like the Republican attack ad tying Barack Obama to Mississippi House candidate Travis Childers).

The ad didn't help. Childers beat his GOP opponent by 8 percentage points.

When asked by Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer what was wrong with the ad, Republican strategist Ed Rollins said, "Everything.

"First of all, Obama is not running down there. Obama is John McCain's problem. And I think to a certain extent, that's going to be a tough enough campaign as-is. [But] people in Mississippi - or in Louisiana or in Illinois, the three seats we lost - want to know, 'What are you going to do about gas increases? What are you going to do that's going to relate to my life and basically help me, help my kids?'"

Which means, while Democrats have a potent lightning rod for nationalizing races by running against George W. Bush's record, Republicans running alongside the President risk looking defensive.

"We need to, as a party, go back to our roots, if you will," said Gov. Charles Crist, R-Fla., "make sure we understand we're the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party of Teddy Roosevelt, the party of Ronald Reagan, who had that wonderful optimism that people looked toward and were excited about and understood that there was greater hope, greater opportunity for the future."

Rollins also said it was a mistake for President Bush to inject himself into the presidential race with his inflammatory comments during a speech before the Israeli Knessit (in which he compared Obama's stated intention to talk to anti-democratic world leaders with Nazi appeasers in the 1930s) because it suggests that John McCain is running for Mr. Bush's third term. "If it's the Bush third term, John McCain can't win," he said.

"This president has to realize that he is no longer on the ballot," Rollins added.

Also appearing on the show, Mario Cuomo, the former Democratic governor of New York, believed the Democrats - regardless of how their contentious primary battle shakes out - have an enormous advantage come November, in a nation where 82 percent believed our country is moving in the wrong direction.

"How do we make the most of the Republican problems, all of which are Democratic opportunities?" Cuomo said.

"America wants and needs everything that we have got from 1993 to 2000," Cuomo said. "You got 22 million new jobs. You got a balanced budget. You got a potential surplus of $5.4 trillion. You got an ascending middle class. You got a shrinking poor population - all in those years. You got peace. And that's what the United States wants again."



Read the full "Face the Nation" transcript here.
  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.