By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers.
Here's something we don't hear every day in Washington: Ronald Reagan's dead, get over it. That's a blunt paraphrase about conservatives and GOP traditionalists who want to relive the good old days from a senior Republican senator, speaking on background. "Ronald Reagan ran in the 1970s. That was a long time ago," says the senator, a member of the GOP message team. His point: The party has to reach past its traditional base and especially to younger and Hispanic voters. "It's about survival," he tells us.
The senator's comments reveal a real debate within the party over what happened in the last elections and how the GOP can get back in the game. The debate so far is between hard-right conservatives who believe that Sen. John McCain and the GOP didn't hammer traditional values enough and moderates who see a need to expand the base of voters. Our background senator said that wooing the base wasn't an issue in the presidential election: McCain won more than 90 percent of those voters. Where the GOP lost was with kids, in the suburbs, and with Hispanics. "When we lose the suburbs, we are really in trouble," the senator says. Instead of trying to be Reagan, the senator says, candidates have to present new issues and positions relevant to voters beyond gay marriage and taxes. His idea: Push for better and cheaper healthcare and a cleaner environment. And before you say that McCain did try to play with those issues in his losing bid to President-elect Barack Obama, here's how our senator responds: "John McCain was not a good messenger once you got past Iraq. He was a terrible messenger."
And while we're on the issue of GOP message, the party has just sent supporters an E-mail seeking money to help it "rebuild from the grassroots up and provide the resources Republicans need to block the Obama Democrats' left-wing agenda." Its hook to snag your $35 check: A white elephant in Christmas clothing called Nick. Really.