2009-05-28 / Local & State

Ridge Offers Strong Words On How GOP Can Rebound

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge says the Republican Party needs to be much less judgmental about disagreements within the party - and far more judgmental about disagreements with Democrats.

Ridge, a moderate Republican and former Pennsylvania governor, said on CNN's Sunday "State of the Union'' program that conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh conveys his point of view in ways that offend many people.

He said Republicans should respect the opinions of others and explain in "a rational, thoughtful, responsible and reasonable way'' why Republican ideas should be more acceptable to the average American.

Ridge has ruled out running against Republican-turned Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter next year, but sidestepped a question on whether he might make a run for the White House in 2012. He said he plans to work within the party so the GOP wins the presidency in 2012 "and we'll just leave it at that.''

Ridge also declined to say who he would vote for should the Senate race pit Specter against conservative Republican Pat Toomey, saying his ballot would remain secret until after the election.

"I'm a strong, strong Republican but ... I've never, ever, ever voted straight Republican ticket in my life and I never will,'' he said.

Asked about recent Democratic strength in the Philadelphia suburbs, Ridge pointed to demographic changes in the region but also said the opposition should get credit where credit was due.

"I think for the past couple years, the ... Democratic Party apparatus with Governor Rendell has done a much better job of registering more voters and keeping them in the fold,'' he said.

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