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Republican Centrists Fight for Relevance

Big GOP gains this November are likely to bolster the conservative wing of the party. But members of the Tuesday Group, a band of moderate House Republicans, insist centrists will continue to wield significant power.

The Tuesday Group has weathered numerous losses in recent years as its members have fallen in re-election bids, run for higher office or retired.

This election year doesn’t look much better for moderates, as tea party candidates have flourished and only a handful of center-right candidates are running to replace departing moderates.

A particularly notable, if symbolic, blow came last month, when former Tuesday Group leader Rep. Mike Castle unexpectedly lost in the Delaware Republican Senate primary to Christine O’Donnell, a more conservative, tea-party-backed candidate.

But Tuesday Group leaders are preparing a new strategy to ensure they remain relevant.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, co-chairwoman of the Tuesday Group, suggested the group might change its approach by targeting certain issues instead of putting out a broader platform as in previous years.

“I think it is going to be much more issue-based, where we can make a difference,” the Missouri Republican said. “That would be my goal.”

To counter the departure of numerous members over the past few election cycles, the group expanded its membership to more conservative Republicans.

As a result, the Tuesday Group has increased its membership in recent years, proving its ability to survive, said Rep. Mark Kirk, a Tuesday Group co-chairman who is running for the Senate and will leave the House in January.

“We are the most reported extinct species that has gone from an informal group of six members to now [more than] 30,” the Illinois Republican said. “When the Republicans were slaughtered in 2006, we lost twice as many [Republican] Study Committee members as we did the Tuesday Group.”

The Republican Study group is composed of the most conservative Members in the House.

Kirk added, “I think when we go through this Republican wave, we will not only add Study Committee members, but we will also add Tuesday Group members.”

Emerson said the goal of the Tuesday Group was to find positions where members agree and push for them as a bloc.

“I think that our goal is really to try and find common ground so that we can actually get things done and try to work for the best solutions, and we have the ability to work with the conservative Democrats on the other side,” she said in a recent interview.

Rep. Charlie Dent, who also co-chairs the group, was hesitant to make predictions about the group’s role next year, saying only that its numbers will be strong.

“I think it remains to be seen, but the Tuesday Group will be here next session, and I’m sure after the election we are going to have conversations” about the direction of the group, the Pennsylvania Republican said.

“This is a center-right country. A lot of our members come from center-right districts,” Dent said. “Our members will play an important role in helping shape the governing agenda.”

Kirk predicted the Tuesday Group would rise to be as important in the 112th Congress as in the 109th, when the group persuaded its conservative-led leadership to schedule a vote in favor of more embryonic stem-cell research.

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