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Former Sen. Coleman says GOP must embrace moderates: "If there were a few less, we’d really be gone"

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota U.S. senators Updated: November 10, 2009 - 2:15 PM

In a lengthy interview on the Patriot radio, former Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman gave a spirited defense of Republicans who don't always agree with the party and advised the GOP to "seize the moment."

"My deep concern is that fear and anger will be enough to move massive numbers of independents in a center right conservative direction and we are going to have to see big gains in 2010. But we have to have something to deliver then. Our challenge is to kind of seize the moment," Coleman said in an interview with David Strom. "I fully believe that America is a center right nation....Our challenge in all this is, in the course of the next year, in order to ensure that this is not a New Jersey-specific, Virginia-specific condition is to articulate and lay out an agenda, center right, limited government, low taxes, economic freedom, supporting entrepreneurship, strong defense and lay that out clearly and then I think it will be long term sustainable."

Strom, best known for his reign as the head of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, told Coleman that "there are a lot of Republicans out there who are very frustrated with these moderate members of the Republican caucus."

Coleman, who has been called moderate by some, said allowing room for moderates may be the only way Republicans can get back into the majority.

"We just can’t win in Alabama and Tennessee…It’s not enough," he said. "If we want to be a majority party, we’ve got to figure out a way to make sure we’ve got the Susan Collinses in the U.S. Senate. I’ve got to tell you, Susan Collins is a friend of mine, so’s Tom Coburn.…Across the board there is enough that kind of ties us together as conservatives, center right Republicans… If we want to govern and be a majority party, we need folks there."

"Let them disagree on a few things…because if there were a few less, we’d really be gone," he said.

Coleman said the New York special congressional election "revealed some fissures on the Republican side." In that race, prominent Republicans -- including Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty --  backed the Conservative Party candidate over the Republican candidate. The GOP candidate then dropped out and the Democrat won what had historically been a Republican House seat.

The former Senator said the Republican was a "terrible candidate" and the Conservative "wasn't really a great candidate." No matter, the party needed to unify around a candidate, he said.

"We really do need to be unified. It gets back to my earlier discussion," he said. "If it is just us being angry, if it is just a part of our party, then we are going to find it really challenging to actually be in office and to be able to deal with issues like extensions of tax cuts and strong national security and a whole range of issues."

And will Coleman run for governor next year? He's not saying.

He repeated that he'd decide sometime early next year.

"I’m not jumping into anything and I’m not jumping out of anything," he said.

Here's the complete interview.

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