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Republicans search for new leader

From NBC's Mark Murray
After losing the presidential contest in November, as well as additional House and Senate seats, the Republican Party can at least find comfort in this one fact: Democrats were in this same position just four years ago.

Now, they control the White House and Congress.

Several events and actions helped the Democrats during this relatively short period of time -- the Iraq war, the economic collapse, Bush's unpopularity and Barack Obama's impressive campaign.

But one other thing contributed to the party's success. Beginning with the 2005 race for chairman of the Democratic Party, which Howard Dean won, Democrats began asking (and then answering) important questions about the state of their party:

-- How do you find more opportunities for electoral votes and congressional pick-ups? (Answer: You begin investing in more states, in what became known as the Democrats' 50-state strategy.)
-- How do you raise more money? (You use the Internet, which Dean pioneered in his 2004 presidential bid.)
-- And how do you begin generating more enthusiasm? (You focus on the grassroots and stand up for what the party believes in.)

"The party was drifting into irrelevancy and Dean had to chart a new course," said Donna Brazile, a Democratic National Committee member who worked as Al Gore's campaign manager in 2000. "With the 50-state strategy, Dean helped to revive a dormant party in many parts of the USA."

Now, with the Republican National Committee poised to elect its new chairman later this month, Republicans — as well as quite a few Democrats — are paying attention to what the six candidates for RNC chair are saying after their party's defeats last November.

"The leader of the RNC can be a transformational figure in the party," said GOP strategist Phil Musser. "This person has the opportunity to chart a new path and be the new face of the Republican Party, which we need."

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