'This Week' Transcript: Sens. Leahy and Hatch

STEPHANOPOULOS: The party clearly seems to be concerned at the top levels, George, of being branded as the party of no in the wake of President Obama's election, but also having a hard time. It feels like when you talk about rebranding and outreach, you're avoiding the core question. Is this a problem that Republican ideas are out of favor, or is it just a communications problem?

WILL: Well, the scale of the problem can be measured this way. It is estimated that there are 10 states with only 93 electoral votes in which the Republican Party is sort of durably strong. Now, that's a regional party is what they're becoming.

I happen to believe that no is a pretty good word in politics. Most beautiful five words in the English language are the first five words of the first amendment. "Congress shall make no law," period. But beyond that, in fact, Mr. Obama, by the clarity of his program and the energy of his program, is going to help the Republicans redefine themselves. They are going to be an opposition to this. They're going to be again a party of more limited government, and if Mr. Obama's program works, he wins. If not, the Republican revival assured.

KRUGMAN: But just think about rebranding. So who do they get together to rebrand the Republican Party? The brother of a much disliked ex-president, whose popularity has fallen since he left office, the guy who didn't get the Republican nomination. It's not a -- they don't have any very new faces to do this rebranding, and they are becoming a party that is shrinking in on itself. It's a kind of a death spiral, in which the moderates got driven out of the party, lost, and what's left is a more conservative party, which is getting further and further away from the mainstream. If Obama fails big time, maybe that works, but if not, they really have marginalized themselves.

WILL: The last time, Paul, the last time they talked about the Republicans in a death spiral was after the '64 election when Goldwater carried six states. Four years later, the Republicans began the string of winning 10, seven out of 10 elections. So these death spirals can be reversed in a hurry.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's true, but if you go look at the example of the Democrats in the 1980s, during the age of Reagan, they had to go through a similar experience to this, Jerry Seib, and that's where you saw the Democratic Leadership Council coming up with reform ideas. But it wasn't until -- and this picks up on Paul's point -- it wasn't until there was a candidate, Bill Clinton, to carry those reform ideas forward that you actually saw the success.

SEIB: Right, and there's no obvious candidate for that spot in the Republican Party right now, but there wouldn't be at this stage of the cycle.

I think what's interesting about this particular fork in the road is that it's produced this debate among Republicans about whether the path back to health comes from having a more ideologically coherent, conservative voice that implies a narrower base, or to spread out the party and have a bigger tent. Which is the best way back to power? Is it by having clarity of ideas or a broader outreach? And I don't think that issue was resolved, and I think until it is, you are not going to know what the Republican Party that we're talking about really is going to be in the next two or three years.

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