From NBC's Mark Murray
At a luncheon with reporters this afternoon, Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman attributed his party's midterms losses to the Six Year Itch, to the defeats an incumbent party usually suffers during wartime, and to the scandals and ethics problems that led to the loss of at least a dozen GOP-held seats.
At the same time, however, he said those reasons don't tell the whole story. "I think the American people sent a message, and I think we have to listen" -- that the GOP needs to be a "party of conservative reform" and it must strive for the "highest ethical standards." He added that he anticipated the "culture of corruption" tag possibly hurting his party. "Congress should have passed ethics reform"; it also should have passed earmark reform. "We've got to be the party of reform."
If the Republican Party listens, he concluded, 2006 will be considered only a setback, and "the center-right majority will continue." He later noted, "The most dangerous thing in the world is to stay in success" -- because it prevents you from learning from your mistakes.