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Mehlman Urges GOP to Enlarge Its Political Tent

Outgoing Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman urged his party to broaden its political scope in a speech to the Republican Governor's Association in Miami Thursday.

"Let's be honest -- New England Republicans are not always going to agree on every issue with deep South Republicans, just as Midwest Republicans will not always agree with mountain state Republicans," he said. "But I believe deeply that we are richer as a party for having those diverse beliefs, and that it does not help us as a political force, as a policy force, or as a nation, to see our party shrink its big tent."

Mehlman compared the GOP's struggles in New England -- only one Republican currently holds a House seat in the region -- to the difficulty Democrats had in recent years in the South, Plains and Rocky Mountains. In two of those three areas, Mehlman noted, Democrats have begun to make significant gains -- a blueprint for how Republican need to bounce back. "Our party needs to be growing, not shrinking," he said.

Looking back at 2006, Mehlman said that while the GOP's vaunted ground game delivered as promised on election day it wasn't enough. "If 2006 taught us anything, it is that a good ground game alone cannot be depended upon to push us over the top," said Mehlman. "We need to remember, all of us, that it is good policy that makes good politics."

He focused particularly on the need to get back to core principles when it comes to ethics in government. Mehlman blamed the losses of 12 GOP House seats -- nearly half of all the seat the party lost on Nov. 8 -- on "personal scandal or ethical issues unique to those candidates."

"The Republican Party must -- must -- hold its elected officials, its candidates, its staff, everyone, to the absolute highest ethical standards," Mehlman added. "Always, no exceptions."

The future beyond the RNC is unclear for Mehlman. He will surely have many offers to join private sector firms but has made no secret of his interest in running for elected office at some point. A Maryland native, Mehlman may be looking toward a challenge to Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley (D) in 2010.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 30, 2006; 2:39 PM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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