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McConnell Embraces Big Tent GOP

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, during a wide-ranging interview Thursday on the upcoming elections, said his party must embrace candidates across the ideological spectrum if it hopes to retake control of Congress and block President Barack Obama’s agenda.

“I decided at the beginning of this Congress that the single most important thing I could do would be to help us improve our numbers,” the Kentucky Republican said Thursday evening in an interview in his Capitol office. “I rarely quote Adlai Stevenson for many things. But it was in fact Adlai Stevenson who said: ‘Before you can make policy, you’ve got to win elections.’ And we were sitting there with 40, and then subsequently 41, which is right on the cusp of being irrelevant.”

A few members of McConnell’s Conference, notably Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), disagree, although a majority of GOP Senators — even those with the most conservative voting records — side with the GOP leader.

“I agree with William F. Buckley, in that I’m always for the most conservative candidate who can win,” McConnell continued. “It’s a statement of the obvious that winning in Maine is different than winning in South Carolina — it just is. And I think it’s important to have a national party that can win in every part of America. And, if you do that, you’ll have a big group instead of a small group. If we had a group of 30 or so who all agree on everything, we’d be entirely cohesive and totally irrelevant. I would rather be less cohesive and more relevant, and more able to impact public policy, which is after all why our voters sent us here in the first place.

“So, put me down for the big tent, for winning everywhere in America we can, and for sorting out our philosophical differences after we get elected, because then you’ve got an actual chance to have an impact on the future of the country,” said McConnell, the GOP leader since 2007.

McConnell said he’s confident that Republicans would gain seats this November, but he was careful not to set expectations too high and predict a GOP rout. However, the Minority Leader is willing to make one prediction: “We’re not going to lose a single Republican incumbent Senator in November.”

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