When a roomful of reporters turned out to question him at a Monitor sponsored lunch, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman quipped, "Everyone is focused on the big news of the week – the breakup of Britney Spears and [Kevin] Federline.
Mehlman traveled 313,000 miles in the past two years working to keep Republicans in control of Congress. So Tuesday's election, which saw Democrats taking control of both the House and the Senate, was clearly a disappointment.
Aside from humor, Mehlman urged his party to respond to the loss with introspection and reform. "If we spend some time looking in the mirror, then in my opinion people will view the 2006 election as a political setback but nevertheless the generational effort to build a center right majority will continue," Mehlman said. "I think that finger pointing is not what is appropriate but instead what needs to happen is a serious, sustained effort on the part of Republicans to figure out how we do better."
Melman, who declined to say whether he would stay on as party chair, urged Republicans to pass strong ethics reform legislation in Congress. Republicans should ensure "we hold everyone involved in our efforts to a high standard," he said.
Republicans lost, in part, because of voters who cast ballots against the party in protest of ethical lapses or the war in Iraq, he said. "No question there were a lot of people that went out and wanted to send a message. What I would say from our perspective is we listened, message received."
A strong economy did not translate into voter support for Republican candidates because, "war is horrible thing and people hate it. And that trumps the good economic news," Mehlman said.
The Republican National Committee has been in the forefront of using the latest technology in political races. In the 2008 campaign, Mehlman said, "You are going to see a lot of things like people using instant messaging. I think you are going to see a lot of cell phone technology in terms of driving ads with that." He also predicted that campaigns would place more ads on search sites like Google. "Search ads are about to become something that I think really politically is going to be important in the future," he said.
In the next election, Mehlman said he also expected to see, "a lot more people who are making their own ads and building their own ads and their own video."