RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
When we reached Governor Pawlenty yesterday there in Miami to talk more about those challenges facing the party, one thing he said: The Republican idea factory has grown stale. He believes states can lead the way in generating new ideas and new Republican voters.
Governor TIM PAWLENTY (Republican, Minnesota): From my view, you know, we need to grow the party. And there's going to be a need for turning the page, a next-generation leadership to emerge. The party's got to do a better job of reaching out to groups that are not now supporting the Republicans. We've got a deficit with women. We have a deficit with Hispanics. We have a deficit with African-Americans. We have a deficit with people of modest incomes.
I think the best thing that we can do as a party is reach out to Sam's Club voters, folks who are just focused on bread-and-butter issues. And I don't think the Republican Party's done a very good job in that regard in recent years.
MONTAGNE: Well, it's certainly during this past election made an attempt to reach out, I would think, to that group with the now famous - a character really - Joe the Plumber. How would you see that happening if the attempt has been made and it didn't really work?
Governor PAWLENTY: Well, I don't think the attempt was made very well. I think just because you bring up the name Joe the Plumber, while people view that as a symbol, but what does that mean in terms of what Republicans can do to make my health care more affordable, filling up my car more affordable? I think just throwing out a symbol is not enough.
MONTAGNE: You know, having lost by rather large margins not just African-Americans, but Hispanics and Asians in this past election, what advice do governors have for their party on how it can win majorities in this increasingly multiracial country?
Governor PAWLENTY: Well, that's very important. We can't lose all of the Northeast, almost all of the Great Lakes states, all of the West Coast, a big chunk of the mid-Atlantic, and increasingly some of the Western states. I mean, that is not a formula for being a majority governing party in the country. And the problem is not our values. I believe that they are correct and right for the future, but they have to be applied. And I don't think the Republican Party has modernized its approach to reaching those voters in the context of this modern era.
MONTAGNE: And do you think Republicans should continue to focus so much on values issues like abortion and gay marriage, since - especially now and presumably in the coming years - voters care so much about economics?
Governor PAWLENTY: I don't think this is a matter of throwing our values and principles overboard. We shouldn't. I mean, for example, in the pro-life issue, there are folks in the Republican Party - most, not all, tend to be pro-life. And I don't think it's reasonable to expect that they're just going to, you know, set that aside, because it's profoundly important.
MONTAGNE: You know, just a moment ago you spoke about the party needing to grow new leaders. Realistically, the Republican Party, would it be fair to say, has no leaders at this moment in time?
Governor PAWLENTY: Well, there are certainly leaders in Congress and governors and others, but there's no one person who is viewed as the leader. But that's not all bad because I think having a chorus of voices will actually be therapeutic and helpful to the party. There's going to be some new leadership that will emerge, hopefully with new ideas and new energy reflecting the changing nature of the country.
MONTAGNE: Now, that leadership may well emerge from the governors that you're meeting with down in Miami. Governor Sarah Palin is an obvious name that comes to mind. Certainly seems open to seeking national office in 2012. What about her?
Governor PAWLENTY: Well, I think there's going to be a lot of governors, lots of members of Congress, hopefully people from the private sector, business leaders like Meg Whitman, who are going to be part of this, I hope, Republican renaissance. Governor Palin, I'm sure, will be part of that.
MONTAGNE: Well, let me get away then from a particular person and just say, would she - the profile that she created during this last election - would that be the right profile for the party leadership?
Governor PAWLENTY: I don't think there's any one profile. I think if you start to just focus on identity politics, the party has to be bigger and broader than that. Governor Palin and many other governors will be certainly part of it. But I don't think it's going to be settled in on one person anytime soon.
MONTAGNE: Governor, thank you very much.
Governor PAWLENTY: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty speaking to us from the Republican governors' convention in Miami.