Republican National Chairman Lee Atwater said he has no intention of following President Bush's "kinder and gentler" philosophy and warned even GOP incumbents to be prepared for some "brutal" tactics in his effort to expand the party.
Atwater - a master of tough, hardball political campaigns - told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that when it comes to partisan politics and the GOP's effort to break out of minority status in the House and Senate, he is ready for battle."I shouldn't really say this, but I made a decision that I am not going to concentrate on being kinder and gentler," Atwater said Thursday. "I've decided that I'll not try for the statesman award of next year or the next because, after all, I am a partisan politician."
Atwater said several factors would be important to the GOP increasing its membership in Congress, including recruiting better candidates and pursuing his theme of expanding the Republican base among non-traditional voting groups such as blacks and other minorities.
Atwater said an essential ingredient would be the targeting of close races, warning that resources will have to be poured into those contests, even if it means drastically cutting help to GOP incumbents holding safer seats.
"I think we've got to be somewhat brutal in our targeting," Atwater said. "The biggest mistake, I think, that the other campaign made in the general election from a geo-political standpoint, was running a 50-state campaign."
Atwater said he had talked with Rep. Guy Vander Jagt, R-Mich., and Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., the Republicans in charge of the GOP's congressional re-election effort, and added that he believed "targeting is so important that I don't mind taking some of the heat on it."