“My message is this: get off your ass," Rove told nearly 500 Republicans gathered for a convention luncheon at a downtown hotel. “Get back in the game and fight. Don’t give in to what the other side wants.”
The gathering is taking place as the state GOP is at a crossroads. A Republican politician has not been elected to statewide office in seven years, GOP voter registration has plummeted, and the party is mired in debt.
But Rove said it was possible to turn the situation around and pointed to his experience in Texas. When he moved there, he said, no Republican had been elected statewide in more than a century, and only 13 members of the 150-member house were Republicans. Now, 101 members of the House are Republican and in 1998, when George W. Bush was reelected governor, Republicans swept all 28 statewide offices, he said.
Rove said that rebuilding must not simply focus on the tactical, such as getting voters to the polls on election day or opening GOP clubs on college campuses. Rather, he said, Republicans must change how they communicate their principles and adapt to the times.
He said it would not be easy, but a strong Republican Party is vital for not only California’s health but also for the nation’s.
“You’ve got a big task….It’s going to be tough,” he said. “You can keep going in the direction you’re going, and we in Texas will be grateful for the businesses and, more importantly, the people you send us, because you’re sending your best and brightest…. Or you can get up off the matt and throw yourself back into this contest. Think smart, be active, be committed, rebuild the organization and ask for votes in the right way, and speak boldly and proudly about our principles."