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MSNBC Interview - Transcript


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MSNBC Interview

MS. O'DONNELL: Joining me now is Republican governor from South Carolina, Mark Sanford.

Governor Sanford, good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.

GOV. SANFORD: My pleasure. Thanks.

MS. O'DONNELL: I do want to talk to you about the future of the Republican Party. And if we can, start by revisiting the electoral map from just last Tuesday night and the places where Barack Obama won. Look at those blue places where Barack Obama won. Specifically, he did well in the Midwest, the states surrounding Illinois, like Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin; the West, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico; the Rust Belt, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania; and this New South, including Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. Those were once red states.

Governor, how does the Republican Party come back to be a winning party if the only place they can win is in the deep South and in the Plains?

GOV. SANFORD: Well, I would say that if you were to overlay what happened in the governorships in those same states, it'd be a very interesting and different picture. What's telling is that, you know, Mitch Daniels, for instance, won by 18 points there in Indiana, though it went the other way. You know, if you look at the succession of elections, if you look down in Florida, you look at a lot of different states, you can see one thing at the presidential level, something else very different at the gubernatorial level.

So I'd say part of the way that we work our way back out of the wilderness is tied to staying true to policies that make a difference in people's lives, and I think you've got real world experiments occurring in states across this country that I think will be a national model.

MS. O'DONNELL: I was struck, though, by some of the numbers, though, that we learned from the past presidential election -- of course, Republicans have really lost in the suburbs, and that must be a key concern for you. They were -- suburban voters were 61 percent of Republican votes in 1984, 57 percent in 1988, 52 percent in 2004 and now only 48 percent. Can the Republican Party be a winning party without suburban voters?

GOV. SANFORD: No, they can't be. But I think that the question is, what is the indictment on? The indictment on -- what happened there in the suburbs, and frankly, other places, both in urban and rural America, was that Republicans didn't walk the walk; they ran as conservatives and then governed as something very else. And I think that that disconnect in an electoral sense, when you say you're about one thing and do something very different, can be lethal, and we saw part of that lethal consequence there with the elections of Tuesday. So I think that part of what needs to happen in suburbs, or for that matter, urban or rural areas of America, is for Republicans to go back and start acting like Republicans.

And in the places wherein they've done that -- whether that's, you know, Jim Douglas up in Vermont or whether it's with Mitch Daniels over in Indiana or a whole range of other governorships across this country -- where they've done that, there's been good policy --

MS. O'DONNELL: Governor --

GOV. SANFORD: -- instituted and great electoral success.

MS. O'DONNELL: -- I know you're talking about the Republican Party getting back to the principles and, you know, essentially following through on conservative principles was not big spending because there was a lot of big spending with this president, and with the Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

But what about new ideas? Doesn't the Republican Party need to be about new ideas for the growing minority populations out there, the growing young populations out there? We hear Barack Obama today has 10 million e-mail addresses. How do you bring the party up to that sort of level?

GOV. SANFORD: Well, I think, you know, technological advancement is nice and it can be helpful, but the -- the -- in other words, the base on which it's built is your message. In this case, Obama's message beat, you know, his competitor John McCain's. And it's as simple as that.

What was -- the advantage that he had added to based on what was happening in the economy, based on people's repudiation to the extent of what had happened in the past presidency, based on the degree to which Republicans hadn't walked the walk, yes.

So I'm not as worried about the technology of getting the message out as I am about, first things first, of Republicans going back to the drawing board and saying, wait a minute. What is it that we're about, where is the party as a whole? If you actually look at the country, it's a center-right country, we'ew --

MS. O'DONNELL: I guess, really interesting, Governor, that you say that -- "It's not about technology." I mean, this whole way that Obama was able to govern with social networking, and that that's the heart, in many ways, of his win. I can't believe that you would say that, that you don't to improve on the technology when that's how people are communicating these days.

GOV. SANFORD: I didn't say we don't need to communicate. It's helpful, but it's not where Republicans need to focus first. We can come up with all the great technology in the world, the best messaging in the world, but if we're not clear about what we're about, then we've got a much bigger problem. And so I'd simply say, I believe that technology comes second, and first things first would be tied to Republicans going back to actually walking the walk --

MS. O'DONNELL: I hear you.

GOV. SANFORD: -- and that which they're supposedly about.

MS. O'DONNELL: All right. Governor Sanford, good --

GOV. SANFORD: And that would begin with lower taxes and less government.

MS. O'DONNELL: Governor Sanford --

GOV. SANFORD: We're getting a lag here, and I apologize. (Laughter.)

MS. O'DONNELL: No worries, no worries. We'll be watching this week as you're down in Miami and expected to take the helm of the Republican Governors Association. We appreciate you joining us. Thanks so much.

GOV. SANFORD: My pleasure. Take care.

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