Thursday, November 6, 2008

It is little wonder that House Republicans lost 25 seats Tuesday, if only because there were too many open seats, no grassroots operation and no money. In any case, the House Republican leadership will be changing.

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt has decided not to seek re-election to his post, an indication that he saw it was time to allow others the opportunity to build the party for the future. The assumption is that Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor will replace Mr. Blunt as whip. House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam of Florida also decided to step aside and in a Nov. 4 “dear colleague” letter, said he would not seek a leadership position. As a young member with a fresh perspective, his leadership voice will be missed. Mr. Boehner has already endorsed Rep. Mike Pence to become the new chairman. That is an excellent choice.

Mr. Pence is one of the most sensible and intelligent spokesmen for conservative principles. He is leading the fight for a law to defend the First Amendment from the reintroduction of the Fairness Doctrine in the communications markets. He correctly led the charge against the bloated Medicare Prescription Drug Bill. Mr. Pence is also not afraid to step across the aisle to do the right thing, as he did when he joined former Maryland Democratic Rep. Al Wynn to increase campaign contribution limits.

Mr. Wynn’s ouster from Congress at the behest of the left wing of the Democratic Party also hints at the dilemma facing President-elect Barack Obama. How will he manage the extreme liberalism of the minority caucuses — Black, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander, and women — with his promises to govern from the center? He can’t ignore them; after all, he is a star member. But Mr. Obama has to temper their expectations. With the clear leftward shift by House Democrats, principled conservative leadership will be desperately needed.

Rebuilding the Republican Party must begin immediately and it must be forward thinking. It must move past the President Bush years and settle the infighting over core principles that has nearly destroyed it. Its leadership must be solidified with members who truly believe in traditional conservative principles and understand that those principles cannot be compromised.

“You don’t re-brand. You’re supposed to have principles,” said Thaddeus McCotter, chair of the Republican Policy Committee. He told our editorial board there has been a fight in the party between globalist neo-conservatives, “who view America as an economy,” and traditionalists, “who see America as a country.”

The traditionalists are winning, and with good reason. The most important thing is that the Republicans marshal their muscle and not lose focus representing the values and issues that are important to the American people in general and to conservatives in particular.

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