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Al Cardenas worries about drift of current Republican Party

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Al Cardenas is disturbed about what’s going on with the Republican Party in 2015.

A former Republican Party of Florida chairman for two terms and head of the Washington-based American Conservative Union from 2011 to 2014, he’s backing Jeb Bush this cycle, but also maintains ties with Marco Rubio.

Cardenas spoke at the RPOF’s Sunshine Summit on Friday afternoon, but the comments he made to a few reporters in a hallway offstage were as interesting as anything he said in his speech.

Asked about the state of the national GOP, Cardenas sounded somewhat alarmed.

“I’m a firm believer that’s all’s well that ends well. That continues to be my hope. All is not well now. I don’t think the Republican Party as a brand for a long term future can be successful, given what I’m watching,” he said.

“To be successful, you gotta appeal to people’s higher instincts, not lower instincts. You have to inspire people to be better, not to be mad or angry. And you’ve gotta convince them that you can lead them to a better tomorrow, rather than to get even with the bad guys.

“And if our party is unable to do that, through our eventual leadership, then our party is going to face some long term consequences.”

Noting the Republican Party’s success nationally since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 – 816 Democratic lawmakers have lost their jobs in state legislatures and the GOP has taken control of the U.S. House and Senate – Cardenas said the contrast is stark when it comes to executive leadership in Washington.

“My hope is that whomever we select as our nominee can get the party nationally to meet up with the bar we’ve set up with the states,” he said, adding that he’s not certain at this time that Donald Trump or Ben Carson could beat Hillary Clinton.

When asked about the report that Right to Rise, Jeb Bush’s super PAC, may spend millions (perhaps tens of millions) to go after Rubio, Cardenas said that shouldn’t be surprising, since politics always comes down to going after your opponents.

“I don’t talk to Mike Murphy (Right to Rise’s strategic leader), as the top-tier gets redefined and we get into next year, all four or five top-tier candidates are going to begin contrasting with each other. Trump’s doing it, Ted Cruz has begun doing it with Marco, Ben Carson has tried to stay out of the fray, but I don’t believe that will last for long. … I think all of them will get into that contrasting business, and I think the only reason you’re paying a lot of attention to it is because of their relationship. If it wasn’t for that, you’d think of it as, ‘Hey, everybody is going to be involved with that.'”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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