Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey on Why GOP Is Still Struggling

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," June 23, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, the president is up, and Republicans are down. At 65 percent, President Obama's approval rating tops George W. Bush and Bill Clinton at this point in their presidencies.

And that number looks downright rosy compared with Republicans. Get this. Just 36 percent of folks have a favorable opinion of the GOP in a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.

So, despite angst over all of this massive government spending and worries about the government-run health care, the GOP is still getting no traction. Why is that?

Let's ask Dick Armey, Dick the former House majority leader and FreedomWorks chairman.

Video: Watch Cavuto's interview with Dick Armey

So, Dick, what is going on? You guys shout and shout and shout, and protest and protest and protest, and you dig a deeper and deeper hole. What is going on?

DICK ARMEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, first of all, we have to accept the fact that the president continues to have a large personal popularity.

And we have not gotten him to the point where people have gotten past looking at him ceremonially and started scrutinizing him substantively. At that point, he is going to look a lot less attractive. So, right now, the Republicans look like, gee, they are the people that are saying no to the guy that we think is the most talented guy on the scene.

The Republicans need to be substantive, firm, and demonstrate themselves to be the champions of liberty and smaller government and responsible restraint, against irresponsible...


ARMEY: ... deficit spending.

CAVUTO: But you have been. You have been. You have been saying that, to a man or woman, you know, like you are going crazy saying it. And hats off to you, but — but this dog ain't hunting.

What is going on?

ARMEY: Well, they need to stay with that message.

And the fact is, I have been telling the Republicans for some time, when we are like us, we win. When we are like them, we — we lose. We are still trying to fight our way out of a public impression that we, too, were the spendthrift party. We have got to get beyond that.

And the fact of the matter is, the — the American public are not ready to accept the Republicans as not only different from the Democrats, but, in fact, different from who they have been in the past few years.

CAVUTO: Well, you know what?

ARMEY: So, they need to be stronger and more assertive.

CAVUTO: But you and I have talked about this before, Dick, but a big problem for — for Republicans is, they don't consistently say, take it from us. We spent our way out of the majority. And we screwed up, and almost as if you were coming to an A.A. meeting, admitting, I spent. I have sinned. I'm moving on.

And — and — and there's very little of that, because Americans generally look at — at Republicans when they start railing against spending, and they say, well, hello? Didn't you guys do this?


ARMEY: Right.

And that is a problem. And that's why I have been hurting when I have looked at some of the younger, newer members of Congress that have — have started the theme, we're the new different Republican. We are the change you can believe in from that Republican Party that so disappointed you just so few years ago.

But the fact of the matter is, President Obama is probably today watching himself, seeing the best of his days going behind him. As people look at the substance of his grand plans, they are going to realize that the road to serfdom is pays — paved with grand pretensions, and that this — this president is not committed...

CAVUTO: Dick, you might be right. I'm not saying you are wrong. I am just saying you guys are dropping faster than he is.

So — and he is at a lot higher level.

ARMEY: Again...

CAVUTO: Now, you are right. Times and moments could change.

ARMEY: Right.

CAVUTO: But who is your Ronald Reagan? Who is your up-and-coming, out-of-the-box star, if you had to gauge it? Who is it?

ARMEY: We don't see — we don't see that yet.

I think — I think those people that we see, for example, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, from the House are — are going — and they are doing a good job. We're seeing the Senate begin to present itself.

But they have to also get past the notion that they can fight these big fights of our generation, like health care savings, as — as you looked at the previous guest's comments, and so forth — they have got to be able to fight this with something more oppositional than, well, we have got a — a dumbed-down version of the same idea.

These are bad plans, socialized medicine...


CAVUTO: So, be — it's more than being totally against it — all right. All right. But it's more than being totally against a plan or just saying no. It is about counter thinking everything the Democrats are doing.

Is that it?

ARMEY: Well, it's about — let's start off with, I am a champion of that liberty, that ability of the American people to tend to their own affairs. I know it has worked for us for 200 years. I am a champion of that first.

And I am against anything that intrudes against...

CAVUTO: All right.

ARMEY: .... you’re right to be your own person on your own terms, living by your own ability.

CAVUTO: Gotcha.

Dick Armey, thank you.

ARMEY: Thank you.

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