Lugar unsure Boehner, McConnell would be as good as Gingrich

A veteran Republican senator questioned on Thursday whether current Republican leaders could negotiate effectively with President Obama if the GOP wins back the House.

Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), the longest-serving Republican still in the Senate, said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) might not be able to deal with Obama as well as Republicans had negotiated with President Clinton under Newt Gingrich, who became Speaker after Republicans won back the House in 1994.

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“The question is, how creative will Republicans be in the face of this? If we get the majority, will there be the sort of negotiations that occurred between Newt Ginrich and Bill Clinton, for example?” Lugar said of the prospect of GOP rule in Congress over the next two years while Obama's still in the White House. “And if so, who is going to be our Newt?”

Lugar said Boehner or McConnell could "probably not" fill that role, according to the Evansville Courier Press.

The question of whether Republicans could settle on an ideas-driven figurehead for the part — and, if so, whom — has been one of the silent question marks looming over the fall's elections.

Gingrich had been the face of the Republican opposition to President Clinton after Republicans won control of Congress, but he also developed into something of a polarizing figure within his own party and nationwide. His standoff with Clinton over the budget led to a government shutdown in 1995, and he resigned in 1998.

Lugar said he worried that his party hadn't adequately laid out its ideas for voters the way Gingrich had with the "Contract With America" before the 1994 elections.

“Yes, I am," he said when asked if he was concerned that GOP candidates hadn't offered enough ideas at a national level. "That’s why I challenged today, without going into great detail, the fact that we had better begin thinking in the next 13 weeks about what we are going to do.”

McConnell has said that Republicans will definitely lay out some sort of platform or agenda, likely at the end of September, and other GOP leaders have signaled that such a move is likely.

Lugar suggested that House GOP conference Chairman Mike Pence, a fellow Indiana Republican, might be the right person. He also named Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, as another ideas person for the party.

As for the veteran Hoosier Republican, he'll be around in Congress to see whether party leaders offer enough ideas. Lugar is up for reelection in 2012, and signaled on Wednesday that he's inclined to seek another term.

Hat tip: GOP12