Sen. Jim DeMint

Change must begin with us. That simple slogan best epitomizes the message and leadership former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is offering the Republican Party. America will never believe that Republicans represent "change" until we ourselves make some dramatic changes.

In the past, instead of changing a corrupt system, too often GOP leaders have been corrupted by the trappings of their office. Instead of using that power to make needed change, they have been blinded by that power and end up promoting the status quo. We have allowed "compassionate conservatism" to morph into nothing more than "Democrat-lite." Just to show how far we have fallen: in 1987, Ronald Reagan vetoed a bill that had 121 earmarks, saying "I haven't seen this much lard since I handed out blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair." Compare that to 2005, when we stuffed a transportation bill full of more than 6,300 earmarks, many of which were completely unrelated to the core purpose of shoring up our aging infrastructure system. Reagan conservatives should be — and I believe, are — appalled by this reckless behavior from their leaders.

Voters sent us a strong message in the 2006 elections that they were tired of Republicans acting like Democrats and conducting Washington business as usual. You see, the American people understand what some politicians evidently cannot: that trying to bribe voters with their own money by bringing home earmarks, while ignoring the looming funding crisis of programs like Social Security and Medicare that are looking over the cliff of complete fiscal disaster, makes absolutely no sense.

Mr. Romney and I believe that now is the time for us to tell those same American people, "Message received, loud and clear, and we are going to take back our party." Mr. Romney understands what it takes to make tough decisions. His record in private business and public service is clear: he knows how to turn things around.

Recently, Mr. Romney wrote an open letter to the Republican Party detailing his plan. He said, "If we're going to change Washington, Republicans have to put our own house in order. We can't be like Democrats — a party of big spending. We can't pretend our borders are secure from illegal immigration. We can't have ethical standards that are a punch-line for Jay Leno. When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses. It's time for Republicans to start acting like Republicans."