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Republican Governors Assess Party’s Future

Republican governors from around the country met Thursday to discuss broadening the party's base and its plans on education, energy and the environment. Govs. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Mark Sanford of South Carolina offer their views.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, a look ahead at the future of the Republican Party. Judy Woodruff has our story.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    A week after losing the presidential election, at least six Senate seats, and more than 20 House seats, the question foremost on the minds of those at the Republican governors meeting in Miami today was, where does the party go from here?

    Among those proposing answers was Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the party's former vice-presidential nominee.

    GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), Alaska: So now, with recent elections wrapped up, yes, on the federal level, we are now the minority party. But let us resolve not to become the negative party, too eager to find fault or unwilling to help in this time of crisis and war.

    Losing an election does not have to mean losing our way. And for governors, the way forward leads through our own state capitals, in reforms that we will carry on or begin anew.

    And I promise you: Americans will be looking to their governors for reaction, for stepped-up leadership, and for our abilities to unite and to progress.

    Let the pundits go on with their idle talk about the next election, what happens in 2012. Our concern should be about our state's next great reform, our next budget, our next opportunity to progress in the states that we serve.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Palin was followed by a discussion about lessons learned and the road ahead. In a panel presentation, Indiana Congressman Mike Pence blamed Republicans in Washington for the current state of the party.

    REP. MIKE PENCE (R), Indiana: The truth is that, at the federal level, in 2006 and in 2008, we did not lose our governing majority. We lost our way. The American people didn't walk away from the contract with America; they decided we did.

    And somewhere we, in my judgment, in my eight years in Congress, we lost our willingness to fight for those principles of fiscal discipline, limited government, and reform. And to find our way back, I think we need to recognize that, be open with the American people about it, and be humble about it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    There were other sober post-mortems and a variety of prescriptions, along with reminders that the next round of congressional elections is only two years away.

    For more on what Republicans are thinking right now, we talk with two governors, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Mark Sanford of South Carolina. Both of them join us live from Miami.

    And thank you both for talking with us.

    Gov. Sanford, you first. The mood there more like a wake or would you call it a funeral?

    GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), South Carolina: I don't know if it was either. It was a — we'll call it a candid assessment of what happened last Tuesday. And I think in some ways a number of people were — I won't say excited, but realistic about looking at options going forward.

    So I wouldn't call it a wake or a funeral. I think it's a candid assessment of where we are.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Gov. Pawlenty, how do you explain what happened this year to the Republicans?

    GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R), Minnesota: Well, I think if you had the wake or funeral analogy or metaphor, either way, the person's dead. I don't think the Republican Party is dead.

    We've got great ideas with a lot of talent. And I just think, if we're going to be the party of the marketplace, and elections are the ultimate measure of the political marketplace, and the marketplace is telling us for now they prefer our customers, the people we serve, prefer the product and services of our competitors.

    And when you're losing market share, you've got to step back and say, "How can we improve? How can we do better?" And that's what's taking place at this conference, and there's a lot of good ideas and a lot of good, I think, candid analysis that's taken place.

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