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After Tough Year, Republicans Mull Next Steps

After a historic 2008 presidential election, the Republican Party is facing new questions on how it should shape its agenda in the years to come. The co-authors of "Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream" discuss the road ahead for the GOP.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    As Democrats prepare to take charge in Washington, Republicans are still licking their wounds, trying to figure out what went wrong. Two conservative authors who saw the defeats coming believe they have mapped out a course to recovery.

    Their book is "Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream." The co-authors are Ross Douthat, a senior editor at the Atlantic, and Reihan Salam, an associate editor at the magazine.

    And welcome to you both.

    What is the current state right now of the Republican Party, Ross?

    ROSS DOUTHAT, co-author, "Grand New Party": Well, the GOP is, in large part, a victim of its own success. And I mean its own success going back decades now.

    If you look at the issues that the Republican majority, now defunct Republican majority, was built on, issues in domestic politics, ranging from crime to middle-class taxes, to the state of the welfare system, and so on, these are issues on which Republicans made a lot of progress and won lot of victories over the years.

    But as a result, the GOP is left without issues to talk about in domestic policy. And you saw this play out during this election campaign, where you had an election that, you know, two years ago, people assumed 2008 was going to be a foreign policy election, but in fact it ended up being a domestic policy election and an election that turned on the economy.

    And John McCain was — he was flailing, frankly. He didn't have anything to say. And that's been a problem for Republican candidates more or less down the line of late.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Reihan, the Republicans lost in this general election by age — young people went for the Democrats — amongst gender, independents. They lost among income, almost every possible geographic group. Was this a loss that was about John McCain or was it about the underpinnings of the Republican Party?

    REIHAN SALAM, co-author, "Grand New Party": I, unfortunately, think it was much deeper, more structural loss than about the particular personality. John McCain was probably the strongest candidate the Republicans could have fielded in this election because he had strong reputation of someone who connected with independent voters and someone who had, you know, demonstrated independence from Republican orthodoxy in a few important issues.

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