Vitter: Core values key; Voinovich ‘wishy-washy’

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Sen. David Vitter disagreed Wednesday with criticism that Southern Republicans are ruining the party and said a return to conservative values is the best way to restore political power.

“I’m on the side of conservatives getting back to core conservative values,” said Mr. Vitter, Louisiana Republican and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “There are a lot of us from the South who hold those value, which I think the party is supposed to be about. We strayed from them in the past few years, and that’s why we performed so badly in the national elections.”

Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican, reignited the debate about the direction of the struggling party when he told a newspaper Monday that the biggest problem for Republicans right now is conservative Southerners, particularly Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

“They get on TV and go ‘errrr, errrrr …’ People hear them and say, ‘These people, they’re Southerners,’” said Mr. Voinovich, who is not seeking re-election in 2010. “The party’s being taken over by Southerners. What they hell have they got to do with Ohio?”

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Such critics also point out the Democratic National Committee is grinding the Republican Party with an ad showing Mr. DeMint saying that the defeat of President Obamas health-care-reform plan will “break” him.

Mr. Coburn has said the president’s plan to help the uninsured would instead kill more Americans.

Mr. Vitter acknowledged that Republican leaders are tussling “for the heart and soul of the party” but said “no great divide” exists.

However, he said, the Obama administration’s spending and intervention during a Democrat-controlled Congress present a good opportunity in upcoming elections.

“American voters realize the unbalance of power and understand we need checks and balances in government, which starts in the U.S. Senate,” Mr. Vitter told The Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” radio show.

Mr. Vitter also criticized Mr. Voinovich for voting last week against an failed amendment sponsored by Mr. Vitter and Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, to expand Americans’ ability to carry concealed weapons.

“He’s a moderate, really wishy-washy,” Mr. Vitter said.

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