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Stand tall, Rove tells Pa. GOP

| Saturday, June 30, 2007

HERSHEY -- Urging Pennsylvania Republicans to redouble efforts to carry the state for the GOP presidential nominee in 2008, White House adviser Karl Rove said the party's key to recovering from recent losses is standing firm on its convictions.

"Now is not the time to go into the fetal position," Rove told GOP leaders from across the state Friday night.

"Now is the time to stand up and realize that there are opportunities available for us to advance our cause. Let the American people and people of the commonwealth know where we stand."

Rove, hailed by Republicans as the architect of President Bush's victories in 2000 and '04, addressed more than 400 committee members and guests as keynote speaker at the summer conference of the Republican State Committee, dubbed "Celebrate Pennsylvania 2007."

The three-day meeting at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center ends today after committee members cast ballots in a first-ever presidential straw poll. Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania governor and former Homeland Security secretary, will address a breakfast session.

Republican leaders hope to leave the conference reorganized and energized. Losses in November hit home: Democrats gained a one-seat margin in the state House; the GOP lost a U.S. Senate seat; and four Republican U.S. House members were defeated.

"It's not going to be easy. It's not going to be a slam-dunk," said Republican National Committeeman Bob Asher, of Montgomery County. "There is no question we were down. We took a licking. I think our people are saying now, 'OK, let's get up and figure out what we're going to do to win now.'"

Noting that Bush lost Pennsylvania by about 5 percentage points in 2000 and came even closer to winning the state in '04, Rove encouraged loyalists to act on plans formulated by state Chairman Robert A. Gleason Jr.

"It is absolutely vital and absolutely critical that we get back to the grassroots blocking and tackling of politics if we intend to get to where we want to get, which is back in control of the Pennsylvania Legislature and Pennsylvania in the Republican column in bright red on election night in 2008," Rove said.

Six months after the Democratic Party took control of Congress, "they've demonstrated that they are dysfunctional, ineffective, out of touch and out of the mainstream," he charged. "They can't seem to get anything done."

The president, backed by Republicans in Congress, has put forth a plan to balance the federal budget by 2012, Rove said. If Republicans have their way, there will be "no new taxes," he said to applause.

Democrats, on the other hand, are planning to increase spending by more than $200 billion and want to raise taxes by $400 billion in the next five years, Rove said.

Rove continued to push White House policy that the war in Iraq is part of the war against terrorism, saying if the nation pulls out too soon, terrorists "will follow us home."

"Our challenge as we approach the 2008 election is to understand it is a time for boldness. This is not a time to be timid and weak and wringing our hands," he said. "Now is the time to understand what we stand for, believe in what we stand for, and advocate what we stand for."

Nancy Hamstead, a state committeewoman from Mt. Lebanon, said the conference is not just a pep rally. Hamstead was impressed with a workshop she attended on strengthening grassroots organization.

"I took notes and I'll go home and share it with the committees in my district," she said. "I think those of us who are gathered here, certainly we're probably down after the election, but this is another reason we got together. This energizes us."

"We don't want our members and volunteers licking their wounds any more," said state GOP spokesman Michael Barley. "We want them to redirect their attention and focus on winning elections."

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