What Next For The GOP?

The Republican party has taken a big hit this year, with John McCain getting the knock-out punch Tuesday night. Madeleine Brand talks to Mark McKinnon, former adviser to the McCain campaign, about how the GOP recovers and what McCain will do next.

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Back now with Day to Day. Well, what now for the Republicans? Mark McKinnon has worked on the campaigns of both George W. Bush and John McCain, and he resigned from the McCain campaign earlier in the season because he did not want to be part of a campaign that would have to attack Barack Obama.

Mark McKinnon, you're here now after a long night, and looking at the landscape today, Republicans lost decisively the White House, The Senate, the House of the Representatives. What must they do now to regain their footing?

Mr. MARK MCKINNON (Former Media Advisor to President George W. Bush): Well, I hope the first order of business is not politics. I hope the first order of business is the Republicans will come together, sit down with the Democratic counterparts and President-Elect Obama, and see how they can work together.

I mean, you know, the message last night, a big part of the message was that people are tired of the partisanship in Washington. Now, you know, it's amazing. Just watching TV this morning, of course, they're already talking about the 2012 race.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Already?

Mr. MCKINNON: Yeah, so it's unfortunate, but that's the way politics is in America. You know, the race for 2012 has already begun, but I think the Republican Party will probably split into two camps. There will be the camp that says, you know, we have to get back to sort of the, you know, the Reagan roots. And there'll be the camp that says, we have to be more socially conservative, and there'll be the sort of Connecticut-Republican camp that says we need to moderate. And I suspect that there'll be a real war waged to see which part of that Republican Party ends up dominating.

BRAND: Well, where do you think it will go? I mean, you can almost see it in the campaign that just lost for the presidency with Sarah Palin and John McCain.

Mr. MCKINNON: I'm a moderate Republican, so I hope it moderates. The thing that struck me last night was, I remember in the Bush campaigns, we knew that we had to win at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in order to win the presidency, and we did. And McCain last night only won 27 or 28 percent last time I looked. Republicans can't win unless they broaden their tent, unless they bring in more minorities, more Hispanics, more folks of every stripe and color.

And they've got to do that by not an old party, but a new party, and, you know, McCain opened the door for a lot of things for Republicans - on the environment, for example, and global climate change, and showing that they're growing and evolving to look at, you know, environmental-friendly policies. But - so that's the direction I think the party needs to go.

BRAND: Well, a lot of people are saying, where was that McCain during this campaign. It seems that he abandoned a lot of those earlier McCain principles.

Mr. MCKINNON: You know, it's so easy to armchair quarterback and look back and think about the things McCain did and didn't do right. And there's a lot of things that I disagree with and would have done differently. But at the end of the day, he could have done all those things differently, and you could have switched campaign managers, and the outcome would have been pretty much the same.

People wanted change. You know, we haven't had a environment like this in our - in my lifetime, when only nine percent of the people in this country thought we were headed in the right direction. And I'm sure your listeners are wondering who those nine percent are...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MCKINNON: But that reflects the incumbent party. That means nine percent of the people basically agreed with, you know, Republican direction of the country. So, there's got to be real realignment and refocus for the Republican Party, but right now, again, I hope that the first order of business will be to figure how they can work together with the Democrats.

BRAND: Now, you Mark McKinnon, you were once a Democrat, and you became a Republican.


BRAND: Now, what are you today?

Mr. MCKINNON: You know, I consider myself a moderate Republican. I've, you know, evolved over time, like a lot of people do and, as I grew older, grew a little more conservative. But, you know, I'm very much a hyper centrist, I guess, is what you'd call me. So, you know, I've split my ticket over the years, but I lean moderately Republican.

BRAND: Do you see yourself in four years working on a Republican Presidential campaign?

Mr. MCKINNON: I'm done and out, man. I've been through the microwave a couple of times. I'm very crispy, and...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MCKINNON: I was quite happy to stand back. And I tell you, no matter what your party or your politics, you had to be really proud last night of Barack Obama in his epic and historic achievement. I'm delighted to just be an American citizen and, you know, will do all I can to help Obama be successful.

BRAND: Mark McKinnon, formerly an advisor to John McCain and George W. Bush. Thank you very much, and try to get some rest.

Mr. MCKINNON: Hey, thanks for having me on.

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