(CNN) — A conservative leader Friday laid the Republican Party’s poor showing at the polls at the feet of moderates who, he argues, led the party away from its core principles.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council told CNN that conservatives need to take back control of the GOP if the party is to return to its winning ways.
“Moderates never beat conservatives. We’ve seen that in past elections,” he said.
Rejecting suggestions that the conservative movement was viewed as being out of touch with the electorate, Perkins says the Republican Party needs to go back to basics.
“It’s a return to fundamental conservative principles that Ronald Reagan showed work and that people can be attracted to,” Perkins said.
Pointing to measures in California, Florida and Arizona barring same-sex marriage that passed Tuesday, Perkins said President-elect Barack Obama’s election did not mean the country had embraced liberal social views.
Hmmmm… moderates NEVER beat conservatives? I wonder if that’s true. And are you really planning on further narrowing your base, Mr. Perkins, to you and the half-dozen guys you can come up with who meet your definition of conservative?
The Republican Party faces a long list of problems with no clear national leader and an identity crisis that will play out during a period of good will for the first African-American elected president.
Barack Obama not only won a clear majority of the votes Tuesday night, but he won with a coalition that dramatically recolored the Electoral College map and creates an opportunity for Democrats to have the upper hand after a long period of Republican electoral dominance.
It is the combination of Obama’s success among young voters and Latino voters that many Republican strategists see as particularly troubling to their party’s long-term health.
“We learned from the Ronald Reagan years how generational support for a candidate can ripple through the demographics for years to come,” said one leading GOP strategist close to the McCain campaign.
In other words, young voters who were attracted to Reagan in 1980 remained loyal to Republicans as they aged, providing the base on the party’s presidential success over the past 25 years. Watch how Obama won in GOP country »
In digesting Obama’s 67 percent to 31 percent edge over McCain among Latino voters, this strategist said, “We’ve got to get a handle on these voters before they turn completely. They have become increasingly the key to a number of critical swing states.”
That assessment rang true as New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada were all carried by Obama on Tuesday.
Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan said a good deal of where the GOP goes from here depends on how President-elect Obama governs. Duncan drew historical analogies to when Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton took office, in 1977 and 1993, respectively, in making the case that Obama might overstep his mandate.
“The success of his presidency will depend on his ability to force Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, Barney Frank and Ted Kennedy to the center,” Duncan said. “If he can’t, well, we look forward to the mid-term elections. The last two times Democrats controlled the House, Senate and the presidency, they choked on the bone of responsibility. They lurched far to the left and introduced the country to President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Newt Gingrich.”
It looks like the knives are out in the Republican Party. But it’s not really clear who they plan on eviscerating — the Democrats, or each other.