- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2006

MINNEAPOLIS — Republicans say their disaffected base can be mobilized for the November elections by emphasizing the security pitfalls of a Democrat-controlled Congress.

The question for hard-core Republicans is do they want the House to be led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, “who said less than a year after 9/11 ‘I don’t really consider ourselves at war,’” Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman yesterday told the annual summer gathering of the Republican National Committee.

“As foreign jihadists call into the United States, do we use NSA technology to stop sleeper cells before they hit us?” Mr. Mehlman asked.

“Or do we surrender the use of this technology, as Nancy Pelosi and [Democratic National Committee Chairman] Howard Dean would have us do?”

From their arrival on Wednesday, the party members’ mood has seemed upbeat, despite the disgust many of them say Republican voters feel over the spending, immigration policy and the handling of the Iraq war by the Republican White House and Congress.

“We Republicans screwed up on spending and immigration, but the Democrats are so dysfunctional they can’t take advantage of it,” said former Arizona RNC member Mike Hellon, one of several Republicans vying for the House seat of Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona.

The Democratic National Committee dismissed Mr. Mehlman’s comments, saying his “desperate rantings won’t change the fact that Bush and his rubber-stamp Republicans are in deep trouble with the American people, who can see right through their trickery and spin.”

“The American people will not be fooled again,” said Karen Finney, a spokeswoman for the DNC.

In a nation split about 50-50 between the two major parties, the RNC sees its main challenge as framing an irresistible appeal to its own voters rather than to independents and disaffected Democrats.

Polling shows the party base responds most positively to the Republicans’ foreign policy, particularly the war against terrorism, and secondarily to tax, environmental and judicial issues.

“America faces a critical question: Will we elect leaders who recognize we’re at war and want to use every tool to win it, or politicians who would surrender important tools we need to win,” said Mr. Mehlman, who says the election will be “challenging.”

The RNC also will try to convince the party’s core voters that a Democratic Congress would spell disaster for the economy and the judiciary.

Mr. Mehlman claimed if Democrats take over, they will impose $2.4 trillion in new taxes — not to reduce the deficit but to spend.

“Senate Democrats have fought to add nearly $2.3 trillion in new government spending to the last five budgets,” he said.

“Who we elect in 2006 will determine whether we will continue to put judges on the federal bench who will interpret the law, not invent it,” he said.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.


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