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CQ Today - The ‘Big Tent' Collapses

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CQ Today - The ‘Big Tent' Collapses

The Republican Party isn't known for agonizing over where it went wrong. That's usually the job of the Democrats, who built an entire industry around second-guessing themselves and churning out ideas about what to do differently so they'd stop losing elections.

The Republicans are just starting to build that industry. From the looks of things, though, they might need to move a little bit faster.

Two Democratic "wave" elections in a row have left the GOP without power in either the White House or Congress, and with smaller numbers in the House and Senate. The party's losses spanned the spectrum, from the most practical moderates to the most ideological conservatives. Next year, there will be no New England Republicans left in the House. Only two House Republicans — Peter T. King of New York and Frank R. Wolf of Virginia — will represent big-city suburbs along the East Coast.

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And King, whose suburban Long Island district is now one of the two remaining East Coast suburban districts in Republican hands, implicitly criticized McCain, saying the party has become "obsessed" with earmarks, which account for only 1 percent of the budget and don't top most Americans' priority lists.

"If you went around the country, I bet you wouldn't find 100 people who think the biggest problem is overspending and earmarks," King said. Instead, he said, Republicans need to do a better job responding to the economic crisis — the issue that dominates most Americans' lives right now — and explaining "how we would intelligently regulate, not overregulate, the financial instruments of the 21st century."

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Some Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, say the party needs to explore new issues to win back the regions it is losing. King, for example, said Republicans could win back suburban voters if they showed greater sensitivity to the needs of working parents who struggle to balance their children's needs with the demands of their jobs.

"We have to understand that the makeup of the workforce has changed," and that families where both parents work are more the rule than the exception, King said. Republicans should acknowledge that change by proposing incentives for employers to offer more family leave, flextime options and arrangements to let parents work from their homes, he said.

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