Bill Steigerwald

With Democrats running Congress and Republicans hoping to rediscover and reinvigorate their core conservative values, Genevieve Wood of The Heritage Foundation has her work cut out for her. As director of strategic operations, it’s her job to promote and educate the media, Congress and grassroots organizations about her think tank’s conservative ideas. A frequent commentator on the talk shows, she's also founder of a media consulting and training company. I talked to her Feb. 13 by phone from her offices in Washington.

Q: We have Mitt Romney, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani ... . Is this the best that the party of Reagan can come up with today?
A: The fact that not one of them has secured what I would call the conservative base, I think, means there is room for somebody else to step in. The problem is, who is that other person? When you talk to conservatives they all say they are not happy with any of the front-runners right now. But no one has been able to put forward another candidate that they would like a lot better. Until somebody can do that, these three are going to stay in the lead.

Q: How about Newt Gingrich?
A: A lot of conservatives like Newt because conservatives at their core are people who like ideas and like reform ideas, which Newt is obviously known for back in ’94, in bringing in the Republican majority then. And that has been something that has really been lacking over the last few years. Newt is weighing his options. He’s going to see how these three play out without having to spend a lot of money upfront right now and, as he said, make a decision at the end of summer.

Q: What’s happened to the conservative movement? Are its ideas still valid or are they getting stale? What’s the problem?
A: People in the minority tend to be hungrier than those in the majority. Republicans have now been in the majority for over 10 years in the Congress and they’ve ended up holding the White House. It became about holding on to power, unfortunately, instead of putting into practice conservative principles like limiting government and reducing spending.

I said to people during this last election cycle in 2006 that there has been a lot of talk about how disillusioned social conservatives were. It’s true. But the folks at the Cato Institute were also just as disillusioned, and for other reasons. You have to look at the full base and say, “Look, this isn’t just one segment that’s disillusioned. There are a number of factions that are.” And I think it’s because the party stopped talking about reform and stopped talking about ideas.

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..