Republicans became America’s majority party for 12 years beginning in the mid-1990s with aid from the intellectual firepower of GOPAC and the candidates it helped the party field.
It’s a legacy the group will try to recapture as GOPAC leaders gather in Washington Tuesday to celebrate its 30th annual summit, but not without grappling with questions about its mission.
The political action committee linked to Newt Gingrich’s “Republican Revolution” finds itself attached to a minority party that can’t always agree on what the problems are, let alone how to solve them.
Take global warming.
Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker who headed GOPAC in its heyday, and Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain believe global warming is an important political issue.
Mr. Gingrich cut a TV ad with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, urging action on the climate.
“We don’t always see eye to eye, do we, Newt?” Mrs. Pelosi asks in the ad. “No,” Mr. Gingrich replies. “But we do agree our country must take action to address climate change.”
Not so fast, says former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont, who 30 years ago founded GOPAC to recruit good candidates and show them how to win the war of ideas at the ballot box.
He thinks warming isn’t even a problem, because it isn’t occurring globally.
“It has warmed one-twentieth of one degree in 10 years,” he said. “Global-warming advocates want to see international control of business, and climate is a nice way to get to that.”
But as GOPAC’s three-day summit convenes at the Key Bridge Marriott, the agenda will focus on helping to reignite Republicans’ electoral prospects heading into what is expected to be another strong year for Democrats.
GOPAC Chairman Michael S. Steele said his organization became less relevant to Republican Party and conservative politics after the 1994 GOP “revolution” because “it strayed from the message and mission that made it great - away from the programs that it had been known for. Nor was it creating new programs to support the election of state and local candidates.”
Mr. Steele, Maryland’s former lieutenant governor, said GOPAC is refocusing on how to help Republicans win by distributing information packets that will help candidates and prospects focus and develop a message, target voters and raise funds.
“GOPAC was deeply involved in helping me and others win our first congressional races,” said South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a McCain close friend and possible running mate. “I still remember reading [GOPAC director] Joe Gaylord’s ‘Flying Upside Down,’ and the incredibly pertinent and astute advice it had for running a challenger race.”
Mr. Sanford says the group “still plays a key role in helping build a ready bench of conservative candidates and in helping grow and strengthen our grass-roots network of conservative activists, both of which are things our party needs now more than ever.”
This week, Mr. Gingrich, former Virginia Sen. George Allen and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, now counselor to President Bush, will join Mr. Steele at the three-day, 30th-anniversary celebration of an organization that, like the Republican Party, is struggling to find its way back.
“GOPAC has now had a 30-year history of significance in recruiting, supporting and educating Republican candidates at the local level,” said Mr. Gingrich told The Washington Times. “It has been the farm team for a generation of federal candidates.”
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