Less than 12 hours after his concession speech to Democrat Tammy Duckworth, Congressman Joe Walsh was not ruling out a future bid for governor or U.S. Senate.
Describing a "dearth" of Republican leadership in Illinois, Walsh said someone needs to step up. And the McHenry Tea Partyer, known for his charismatic candor and caustic rhetoric, said Wednesday it just might be him.
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In a candid interview, he addresses his future, as well as mistakes he made in his own campaign for re-election in the 8th Congressional District.
Q. In the end, did you feel you made mistakes or had any regrets in the campaign?
A. You know, no. No regrets, but one mistake. I knew it was a tough fight, I knew the media was going to be against me from day one. It was a constant battle to figure out how to get any attention. The mistake I made, I knew Duckworth was going to talk about abortion. Then I stepped in it. Made a mistake in what I said (that advancements in medical technology made abortions to save a mother's life largely unnecessary). That mistake didn't help. It wasn't what I meant to say.
Q. Have the election results sunk in?
A. What was weird about last night ... is that it was such a resounding defeat by all Republicans in Illinois. It's an odd thing. I mean, I was obviously focused on my race, but in the back of my head I was thinking of (Republican U.S. reps.) Judy (Biggert), Bob (Dold), Bobby (Schilling) and all the other guys. And when I got up there to finally speak, it just all came out. I was almost more moved by the profound lost of Illinois more than just my race.
Q. What do you think your campaign's effect has been on other races?
A. I knew this was a tough district. I knew this was a tough fight and I knew we made it close. If you think about it, all the money that was poured into this race, and all the attention that this got, it almost shielded others from attention.
Q. Along with your race, Biggert and Dold also lost their re-election bids. Do Illinois Republicans need to refine their strategy, eyeing the governor's seat in 2014?
A. My answer is simple. This state has fallen off a cliff. It's a one-party state. We need a GOP that clearly and forcefully and cheerfully articulates a different vision. The state party hasn't stood for anything for years. It's enabled House Speaker Mike Madigan to have so much power.
Q. So, how do Republicans win over those independent, swing votes?
A. It's by having a clear stance. You have to go to independents and say to guys and girls, "The state has the worst foreclosure crisis in the country." Republicans need to go to Latinos and Hispanics and blacks and say, "the education you're getting at city public schools is terrible." I believe in school choice. Republicans have to stand for real ideas. If all we have to do to get more voters is sound like Democrats, we're never going to win. We can't out-Democrat the Democrats.
Q. What about a bid for governor for you? A possibility?
A. You know that I believe fervently in that vision. I don't know of many other candidates who articulate that vision. Am I going to do something? Oh gosh, I don't know. People approach me every day and ask, "Walsh, are you going to run for the governor? Are you going to run for Senate?" I want to do my part to lead a movement to present a vision to this. I'd rather go down fighting. Democrats have ruined this state but they've been able to do it because the Republicans have allowed them to.
Q. Others say you would make a great political pundit on television. Any thoughts on that?
A. I'm a policy guy. My background is policy. I'm moved by ideas. Whether that means I run again or whether that means I'm doing something else, writing about or speaking about ideas, I don't know. Somehow or other I'm going to be connected around them. We have a dearth of conservatives in the state. I've got a lot of flaws as a candidate. But I can talk to any person in everyday language. We desperately need that. This party that I'm part of, that I love, needs to be purged.
Q. Have you spoken to any other members of the Illinois delegation?
A. I've exchanged texts with Bobby Schilling, I've talked with him a little bit. He's down, he's surprised. I'm going to reach out to Bob Dold. I had a great conversation with (Republican U.S. reps.) Peter Roskam; Don Manzullo called me. As a group, we're all pretty shocked. As a delegation, when you look at the change, we now have an 11-8 advantage. I think we're going to be down to a 12-6 disadvantage. Because Judy, myself and Bob Dold lost, we now have no Republican representation in that inner ring of suburbs. That's not a good thing.