Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman
As Prepared For Delivery
Thank you, Ed for your incredible leadership. No one deserves more credit for last year’s victory than Ed Gillespie.
I am humbled by your support, honored by your faith in me, and together we will work to see that the gains our Party made in 2004 translate into further success this year and in the future.
One hundred and fifty years after our party was first first founded, the party of Lincoln stands at our strongest point in a century.
Our President, George W. Bush, is the first to be re-elected while his party expanded majorities in the House and Senate since 1936. He is also the first President of either party to win a popular vote majority since 1988.
George W. Bush received a larger percentage of the popular vote than every Democrat in the 20th century, except Lyndon Johnson and FDR.
For the first time since exit polling began, Republicans comprised the same portion of the electorate as Democrats. And since the last presidential election, conservatives have increased their proportion of the electorate by nearly 20%.
And all of this occurred in a year when voter turnout increased to the highest level since 1968.
As the President promised, this was not a lonely victory.
Our Speaker, Denny Hastert, leads the largest team of House Republicans elected on any election day since 1946.
Our Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, added to his Senate margin. The last time there were more Republicans in the U.S. Senate was 1930.
Republicans hold the governorships of 28 states, including the 4 largest. You can drive across our nation today from east to west and north to south and never leave a state led by a Republican governor.
Most amazing of all, we won this victory in a year when Democrats outspent Republicans on politics by $113.6 million.
There’s a word for this kind of a victory: it’s called a mandate.
You don’t win a mandate unless you ask for one. And the first way our campaign was historic was that President Bush and Republicans up and down the ballot told the country exactly what they wanted to do and asked for the American people’s support.
Nearly everywhere the President traveled, he talked about why he wanted a new term:
To pursue the terrorists abroad so we are safer at home; to promote democracy and fight injustice in the lands where terrorists are recruited.
To reform the tax code: we won’t create 21st century jobs with a 20th century tax code.
To save Social Security so it’s there for today’s generation and for our children and grandchildren. To allow young Americans, regardless of their income, their education, and their station in life, the choice to save and create a nest egg to pass along to their children and grandchildren.
To appoint strict constructionists to the courts who understand the difference between legislating from the bench and interpreting the law.
To promote a culture of life, where the weakest and most vulnerable are protected, where every child is welcomed in life and protected by law.
To promote marriage and be sure that government stands on the side of strong families.
To make health care more affordable and available by empowering patients and helping small businesses join together to reduce costs.
To expand the elementary education reforms to high school so that a high school diploma means real achievement and real opportunity.
To discourage frivolous lawsuits that raise the cost of health care, destroy small businesses and make everything we buy more expensive.
Our victory was historic, and it was a mandate, because the President and Republicans up and down the ballot offered a clear agenda for reform.
And the American people said yes in record numbers.
The second way our campaign was historic was how and where we communicated this clear choice.
If you watched broadcast TV or cable, listened to talk radio, urban radio, Spanish language radio, farm radio or radio traffic reports, surfed the web, talked with your neighbors, answered your door, opened your mail, answered your phone or worked out at a public gym, chances are you heard from Bush-Cheney ’04.
And you probably heard from us more than once.
The 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign recognized that the days when the American people had just a few choices for news and information are over. We embraced the new media, and the old, with our campaign message.
Third, our campaign was historic because it was fueled by the motivation and commitment of millions of Americans.
President Bush’s leadership has made Republicans the party of the grassroots.
Since President Bush’s inauguration, we’ve:
· registered 3.4 million new voters
· received support from 1.8 million first time small dollar donors (including 765,000 in 2004 alone)
· recruited 1.4 million volunteers and team leaders and 7.5 million e-activists.
These volunteers are not just signing up. They’re taking action:
· 102,000 calls into talk radio shows
· 411,989 letters to the editor
· 69,000 personal letters to targeted voters
· 467,000 voter registrations via the web
· 9.1 million volunteer door knocks
· total of 27.2 million volunteer phone calls.
Because of this historic campaign and historic election, we now have an historic opportunity.
Our party can continue to earn the majority status we’ve won in the past 2 elections, and continue to expand our support even further.
These are 4 steps we can take to cement these victories into a durable Republican majority.
Our victory was first and foremost a victory of ideas. Step one is to enact the ideas we ran on and the American people endorsed.
President Bush, Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Frist will confound the cynics and do in office exactly what they pledged during the campaign.
We must make sure that promises made are promises kept.
Our leaders cannot accomplish this mission alone. Just as they didn’t win on November 2 by themselves, they need our help. Let’s put these supporters and activists to work for the agenda they championed last year.
Let’s use the tools that produced victory on election day—regional media by state parties, volunteers calling into talk radio, writing letters to the editor, or attending town hall meetings, petition drives urging action, bloggers separating fact from fiction, surrogates on cable television, citizenship Sundays to help accomplish this agenda for America.
As we give voice to this bold agenda, let’s continue to make sure that we’re attacking problems, not people. Changing the tone in politics requires both parties to show personal respect as we disagree.
We must also look for ways to work together and promote greater participation and more public service. That 10 million more Americans voted in 2004 than in 2000 is a great tribute to both parties.
While I don’t know who my counterpart at the DNC will be, I think it’s important for the chairmen of America’s 2 great parties to promote more participation and public service.
I hope that the DNC chairman will together join me in visiting schools across America to encourage young Americans to vote, volunteer and participate in politics.
Step 2: GOP must continue to stand for Grow Our Party. In 2004, this meant deepening our base by turning out additional conservatives and Republicans, while also broadening our appeal to swing voters.
The Bush-Hastert-Frist agenda provides numerous opportunities to broaden and deepen the party.
When we push to save Social Security, we have an historic opportunity to bring more young Americans into our party. If you’re 30 years old or younger and you care about a secure retirement, the Republican party has a plan for you.
When we debate who should sit on the judiciary, we have an opportunity to deepen the GOP by registering to vote men and women who attend church every week but aren’t yet registered voters.
We can bring new African American faces and voices into our party when we debate whether faith based organizations should have a seat at the table and whether public schools need to be more accountable and parents need more choices.
We can deepen the GOP by identifying and turning out Americans who vote for President but miss off year elections and agree with our work for a culture of life, promotion or marriage, and belief in our 2nd Amendment heritage.
And we can bring new Latino doctors, accountants and teachers tired of frivolous lawsuits into our party as we debate lawsuit reform.
Step 3: Continue to recruit and support the best candidates up and down the ballot.
The volunteers and tools used to re-elect the President in 2004 are now ready to help Republicans up and down the ballot in 2005 and 2006.
Historically since World War II, the President’s party loses 7 Senate seats and 19 House seats in its second midterm election.
With 28 governors, some of whom are retiring, we must also defend many state houses.
2006 will provide a difficult challenge, but remember what George W. Bush has taught America and the world. In his first 4 years in office, George W. Bush faced challenge after challenge, from September 11 to corporate scandals and a recession he inherited.
But rather than complaining or laying blame, he responded by seizing the moment, transforming challenge into opportunity.
Politics was no different. By seizing the moment, and transforming challenge into opportunity, we made history by picking up seats in our first midterm election. We must take on the challenge of 2006 by treating it as an opportunity.
We must look also beyond the next election. The 2008 Presidential election occurs in 1,385 days or roughly 33,240 hours—not that I’m paying close attention.
George W. Bush’s success in 2004 was partly the result of the planning we began in 2001. The party building for the 2008 election begins today.
Tomorrow’s national leaders are today at the state and local level. And the state legislative leaders who in 2011 will draw the maps are today our volunteers and local activists. Let’s find them and train them and support them.
Step 4: we must institutionalize our grassroots efforts from 2004, and improve them. Over the coming months, we’ll assess exactly what worked on November 2 and how we can do even better.
We should take nothing for granted, and continuously assess the best ways to find and register new voters, ID and mobilize Republicans who don’t always vote, persuade independents and discerning Democrats, and turnout our supporters. Every election should be a testing ground for the best political practices.
We must empower and train our millions of volunteers and e-leaders. Voter registration should be a year round, permanent program, not just something that’s done for a few months before a Presidential election. Citizen Sundays should occur every week, not just leading up to an election.
The volunteer deployment on Election Day needs to occur every day. We must master early and absentee voting.
The goal of this effort: Republicans must acquire and maintain a technological advantage in the tactics of politics.
Liberal columnist E.J. Dionne said that: “While Democrats used old-fashioned mobilization techniques—think of them as Turnout 1.0—Republicans were already at Turnout 2.0.”
The Democrats know this and will work to close this gap. We must spend the next 2 years getting to 3.0
Enact and articulate our reform agenda. Deepen and broaden the GOP so we’re growing our party. Work to elect the best candidates in 2005, 2006 and 2008. Go from politics 2.0 to politics 3.0.
If we can accomplish these four goals, the Republican Party, the dominant party in America in 2002 and 2004, can continue to earn our position in the future. And in so doing, we will help accomplish great things for our nation.
It wasn’t so long ago that people were more cynical about what we do—folks who said that politics don’t matter much any more, that the days of great political parties were over, that you really couldn’t make much of a difference.
I disagree. To the cynics and the skeptics about the importance of politics, of the power of free elections, I say look around the world.
Just weeks ago, the people of the Ukraine loudly and clearly proclaimed something that George W. Bush often says: freedom is not government’s gift to man. It is God’s gift to every man, woman and child in this world.
Back when Ronald Reagan spoke truth to power and demanded that Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall, few would have predicted that the then captive Ukraine would be the place where the world would be reminded of the power of freedom.
Many doubted Reagan then, just as many today deride President Bush’s commitment to freedom in Iraq and across the Middle East as wishful thinking. But the Ukraine is not the only unlikely place that freedom has found a home.
Just before the Ukraine’s elections, the people of Afghanistan voted to elect their leader. In a nation where just a few years ago, women were stoned to death for going into public, they participated in free elections in record numbers.
And just last week, the Palestinian territories elected a new leader, again by democratic process, not backroom decisions by corrupt elites.
Later this month, Iraqis will test freedom as they vote in free and fair elections for the first time in decades.
While the desire for freedom is worldwide in scope and possibility, people who seek freedom have long looked to America for leadership since our nation’s founding.
They have looked to leaders like Abraham Lincoln who spread freedom across our nation by ending the evil of slavery.
To leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. who made sure that America fulfilled Lincoln’s promise.
To leaders like Ronald Reagan, who brought down the Berlin Wall without firing a shot and helped free 400 million people from the gulags of communism.
And to leaders like George W. Bush who today fight to preserve and defend freedom by fighting terror abroad and expanding opportunity at home.
Why is the party of Lincoln and Reagan and Bush at our strongest point in a century today?
Why do we stand at this moment of enormous responsibility, and amazing possibility?
Why at this moment of importance to America and the world have majorities of Americans entrusted our leaders with the White House, the majorities in Congress and most governorships for 2 elections in a row?
We waged historic campaigns. And yes, we also presented the best candidates.
But most importantly, because the party of Lincoln and Reagan and Bush has held true to our founding principle of freedom.
So let us move forward and hold high our banner of freedom. Amidst the smoke and sounds of political battle, let us never fail to look to our banner for guidance, inspiration, and direction.
The Republican banner of freedom shows the way.
That is our cause…and this is our moment—to build a safer world and a better America we need an even stronger Republican Party dedicated to freedom.
And that’s why we need all of you more than ever.
T.S. Eliot wrote that politics is too important to be left only to politicians. This is a team sport. Only by working together for the cause of freedom can we create the future that our conscience demands and the country that our children deserve.
With your help, and with freedom as our fixed star, we will seize this opportunity that history has provided to us, and the nation, and the world and future generations will thank us for this effort.