House GOP Leaders Focus the Troops on Winning Back Majority
BALTIMORE — The House Republican Conference completed a three-day retreat Saturday with a renewed sense of purpose going into the 2010 elections — and an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction that it finally had its say with President Barack Obama. The message that House Republicans received from speakers and their leaders was simple: The party can win back the majority this November. Former Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), who delivered Saturday’s only speech, said he told GOP Members that they needed to stop talking about the limitations of the minority and focus on pitching the nation on their ability to lead. “The object of this election cycle for Republicans should be, at a bare minimum, a Republican majority in the House,— Armey said.Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he considered the retreat a success because the Conference agreed that such a goal was within sight.“It really worked out well,— Boehner said. “I think the Members have pretty good idea of the big picture, and that is winning the majority back in 2010.— Chief Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday outlined a broad list of goals to be incorporated into a policy agenda that leaders plan to release later this year. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) gave a “powerful— presentation Friday about the financial resources that would be needed to win big in 2010, according to aides who attended the session. The annual event was billed as an opportunity for Members to engage in intensive strategy sessions, but some GOP lawmakers and staff said they were underwhelmed by breakout panels led by Republican mainstays, including former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), pollster Frank Luntz and Rich Thau of Presentation Testing Inc.Asked about Gingrich’s speech, one Member said, “It was Newt being Newt.—And while a rousing motivational speech on Friday night by former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz proved to be a Member favorite, much of the retreat was overshadowed by Friday afternoon’s visit by Obama. Because the Republican Conference restricted access to Members during the retreat, media coverage focused almost entirely on the lively question-and-answer session between Obama and Members.As the snow roared in, the retreat fizzled to its finale late Saturday morning. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) was scheduled to follow Armey’s address but had to cancel after he declared a state of emergency in his state in advance of the snowstorm.Most Members spent the third day of the retreat rushing out of the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel as the storm began to bear down on Baltimore. But there was little left for them to do at that point.Even leadership seemed to be ready to pack up early. GOP leaders canceled their final press availability on Saturday morning, citing McDonnell’s absence. A Republican Conference official said 130 Members attended the retreat.