- The Washington Times - Monday, June 9, 2008

Two years after he resigned from the House, former Republican leader Tom DeLay” href=”/themes/?Theme=Tom+DeLay” >Tom DeLay says conservatives haven’t bottomed out from their 2006 election losses, Democrats are “cleaning their clock,” and it will take years before the Republican Party can compete with the operation Democrats have built.

“The conservatives refuse to accept that the left is cleaning their clock, and until you hit some bottom, wherever that is, to where it says, ‘Well, maybe we ought to do something different,’ little or nothing’s going to change,” Mr. DeLay told editors and reporters at The Washington Times last week.

“I think it’s going to take years to rebuild the party,” he said. “It is a party that will try to find itself as to what kind of party it is, and it will depend on what kind of leadership emerges from this rebuilding, as to what it ultimately is.”

The Texas Republican resigned from the House effective two years ago Monday, months after he gave up his position as House majority leader - a move he was forced to make after he was indicted in Texas on various campaign-finance and money-laundering charges. Some of those charges were thrown out in pre-trial appeals, and Mr. DeLay still has not gone to trial on the remaining ones.

He has spent the time since his resignation studying the way the liberal movement operates, and says it is far more adept under the new campaign-finance rules enacted in 2002, and championed by John McCain” href=”/themes/?Theme=John+McCain” >Sen. John McCain, the Republican’s presumptive presidential candidate.

Mr. DeLay said Democrats and their allies have mastered the art of using independent groups, while Republicans lag far behind, still focused on a party-based strategy that can’t compete.

“People out there that are making decisions are not focusing, in my opinion, on what it’s going to take to rebuild the conservative movement and rebuild the Republican Party. They’re living with 10-, 15-year-old technology. They still believe if you raise enough money, go on television enough, you’re going to win. Those days are over,” he said.

He is spearheading an operation to try to bring together grass-roots conservatives groups representing issues across the spectrum, from security to taxes to trade to social issues, but said it’s been slow going.

Mr. DeLay said he will vote for Mr. McCain for president, but said it’s unclear whether the presumptive nominee can win, and he said his wife, Christine, says she is planning to vote for Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr.

“I’m trying to convince my wife not to do it,” he said.

Mr. McCain, he said, is pursuing “a moderate Republican agenda,” but has been schizophrenic in his approach to conservative voters, and it’s hurting.

“On the one hand, he’s maybe telling himself, look, I won this nomination by appealing to people other than the base, so I know how to win. On the other [hand], his people are telling him, ‘No, you’ve got to have the base to win.’ So, OK, I’ll go do a speech on spending and the economy and be very conservative, and I’m going to appoint good judges, and then two days later, he goes and does a speech in Oregon on global warming, and a week later he announces he’s going to go give a speech to La Raza’s convention.”

Mr. DeLay also said he’s unsure whether it’s better for Republican rebuilding if Mr. McCain wins or loses in November. The party is already reeling from losing control of both the House and the Senate in 2006, with almost no prospect of reversing that this year. The Republican campaign committees are hoping only that they will lose no more ground.

“On the one hand, [Sen. Barack] Obama as president would be even better for building the party than when Clinton was president, in my opinion, because Obama, he can’t even think in terms of triangulation, much less going off the left to the right. I mean, it’s going to be a Marxist, socialist agenda and mind-set that’s got to help us,” he said.

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