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Hastert says GOP is out of synch with young voters@

Associated Press Published: November 15, 2012
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By LEE LOGAN,

c.2012 Tampa Bay Times@

ST. LEO — A top Republican lawmaker during much of the Bush administration has some advice for members of his own party after they failed to defeat President Barack Obama last week.

"The Republican Party has to come back and take a review and a relook about where they're at," former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert said during a speech to about 60 students Wednesday evening at Saint Leo University. "I think we hold onto some of these views and it's not in synch with where young people are today."

Hastert pointed to changing attitudes about gays and lesbians. He also said the GOP has to better connect with Hispanics and women. Some candidates' comments on rape and abortion, he said, played into the idea that "all Republicans are Neanderthals."

During his hourlong talk, he said Obama strategist David Axelrod "did a very good job of defining Mitt Romney from mid spring to the convention we had here in Tampa."

"Every day he would be throwing a political hardball at Romney's head," said Hastert, who retired from public office a year after Democrats took control of the House in 2006. Despite Romney's strong performance in the first debate, he said, "I think the dye was set."

Hastert, 70, knows Axelrod's style well. During Hastert's first run for Congress in 1986, Axelrod was one of two people running his opponent's campaign. The other strategist? Rahm Emanuel, who later served in Congress and the Obama administration before being elected mayor of Chicago.

Hastert took over as speaker in 1998 and started focusing on education, energy and health care. But he said his tenure will be defined by the Sept. 11 attacks, which "focused" the federal government's work on war and peace.

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