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Monitor Breakfast

Selected quotations from a Monitor breakfast with Marc Racicot

Marc Racicot, the former governor of Montana, is the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

On what surprised him about the Republican win in the election:

"I believed that it was possible. I couldn't have been inspired as I was, I don't think anyone of us could have been as inspired as we were or work as hard as we did, if we didn't believe it was possible.

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"I thought it was more possible to hold onto a majority in the House than it was to regain the Senate. I thought that was going to be very difficult. But I still thought it was possible. The governors' [races] surprised me. I thought we were going to face many more challenges than we faced and there might be a larger realignment because we had had so many, so long and having been one of them I know you have a shelf life and it just expires some times."

On the largest risk the Republican party faces as a result of its midterm election win:

"I think that the American people gave us an opportunity to serve. Because we asked for it and we indicated we wanted to get things done. I think the largest risk that we would take is to become engaged in inaction.

"I think one of the central differences in how the parties approached this election was the psychological dynamic that seemed to dominate, it seemed to me, the different approaches. We set about to be successful. We didn't set about to avoid defeat ...

"The explanation for why [President Bush] did what he did was very simple. And, that is, he knows he has a certain amount of time that the American people have given him to serve, he wants to get things done. So he set about to ask the American people to enable us to be able to do that.

"I think the largest risk we face is inaction, not continuing to work in bipartisan way. Because I think no matter what the issue the American people will understand if you are trying hard, if you are acting in good faith, if you are proceeding with good sense, when you admit your mistakes, you don't have to be right every time. You just have to be operating in a way that makes sense to them ...

"So there are probably some issues that have incendiary quality to them, as you mentioned, frankly I have not contemplated that there is any singular issue that poses a significant risk. I think the most significant thing we have to be concerned about is inaction or lack of bipartisanship."

On whether the election results constitute a mandate for Republicans:

"I know the traditional discussion here about mandates. I have always thought that was rather fanciful to be honest with you and a bit presumptuous to somehow suggest that you have received something beyond your constitutional mandate. And I think it is dangerous to talk in those terms because it steals away the opportunity to work with others, and to do so in a bipartisan way.

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"This notion that we have a mandate to proceed in isolation I think is foolish. We have an obligation to work with others to get something done. If we don't, I think we will have missed a rich opportunity."

On what the Democrats did wrong in the last election:

"They did nothing except hold their breath. We approached it trying to succeed. We didn't approach it holding our breath trying to avoid defeat. I think there was a fundamental difference."

On the fluid nature of the current political environment:

"I think the coalitions are changing very dramatically - in fluid fashion very quickly. Labor is changing. What you used to take for granted in terms of religious conservatives is changing. All of this is becoming very fluid in this political environment.

"I think you are going to continue to see close races not because there is division but because there is parity and an increasing number of independent voters."

On the future of the Republican party:

"I think our future psychologically, philosophically, is precisely what George Bush embodies. I think there is a fundamental remaking of the party that is occurring - true to its conservative principles but thoughtful and sensitive in dealing with people and policies in a way that makes sense and works well in people's lives. I think you see that even internationally - that is how he proceeds. Clear set of principles, firm sense of conviction always looking for deliberation and cooperation that is what is going to happen."

On the role of White House advisor Karl Rove in the election results:

"I don't think there is any mastermind here, to be honest, anyplace. I think what you are seeing is the power of teamwork and the power of people being dedicated to a common mission which really is distilled by devotion to George Bush. Not because he says it or commands it. It is what we feel. I want to do the best job I can because of my regard for him and because I want to see him do as well as he can."

On why Republicans did not prevail in the Californian governor's race:

"I don't think we provided proper care taking for our political machinery in California. That means everything from recruiting candidates to keeping our central committee strong and healthy, to being engaging in maintaining diversity. We have been working at that over the course of the last year. We knew even before we got to this point that that effort wouldn't be complete by this point. We have many miles to go before we sleep.

"I don't know all of the reasons. I just believe we haven't been as organized as we should be, we haven't been as engaging as we should be, we haven't embraced people as warmly as we should into the party...

"I think it is largely a result of lack of our own concerted effort. It is not a result of a change of temperament of Californians. It is our lack of having a potent organization and capacity to engage people with the process."