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Republicans Regroup After Electoral Losses

Two years ago, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress as well as the White House. Last Tuesday saw Democrats expand their majorities in Congress and capture the executive branch. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington, Republicans are coming to grips with massive electoral losses and beginning a painful discussion of how to revive their party.

What a difference two years make. Before the 2006 midterm congressional elections, Democrats often appeared in disarray, while prominent Republicans spoke confidently of what they saw as a "permanent majority" for their party.

In January, Democrats will have a new president with an ambitious agenda - and expanded majorities in Congress to help enact that agenda.

The immediate question facing Republicans is how will they, as the minority party in Congress, work with their Democratic colleagues and a president who espouses progressive ideals, but who has stressed a desire for bipartisanship.

Indiana Republican Representative Mike Pence is seeking a party leadership position in the House. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Pence said congressional Republicans will remain true to their ideals while attempting to work constructively with Democrats.

"The purpose of the opposition is to oppose. Knowing the policies of the president-elect, we are going to have some pretty vigorous disagreements, and they are going to be along traditional [partisan] fault lines, and we are going to cheerfully provide that loyal opposition," said Pence.

Crushing electoral defeats typically provoke soul-searching and a reassessment of positions and tactics by the losing party. Republicans are asking whether last Tuesday's electoral outcome was a mere aberration, an electoral fluke, or a permanent leftward shift of America's political landscape.

Virginia Republican Congressman Eric Cantor dismisses any suggestion that America has rejected the Republican Party's core message of low taxes and limited government. Cantor also spoke on Fox News Sunday.

"This [election] was not some kind of realignment of the electorate, not some kind of shift of the American people toward some style of European social big-government type of philosophy," said Cantor. "I think, instead, what we have seen happen is a tremendous distrust on the part of the people in their government. We [Republicans] were associated with this government for the past eight years."

Exit polls Tuesday showed President-elect Barack Obama benefiting from the overwhelming support of African-American, Hispanic, and young voters. Mr. Obama also did well among women voters, and better than previous Democratic presidential contenders among suburban residents and white working-class voters.

Cantor says Republicans should not abandon their party's long-held positions on the economy, national defense, and social issues, but must find a way to reach broader segments of the electorate.

"We are going to have to regroup, and we are going to have to take into consideration the fact that this country has grown more diverse. But there is still a common element among the American people. And that is [that] they want to see a government that works for them," added Cantor.

Democrats, like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, say they believe the electorate has definitively shifted towards their party's views on governance and the economy. But they are quick to add that whether the shift is long-lasting or fleeting will be determined by how effectively Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats confront urgent issues and lead the country.