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GOP wont find answers on the right

Prospects for a more competitive two-party system in Oregon haven't grown any brighter with the election of Bob Tiernan as Republican Party chairman.

Tiernan, a hard-right politician with an even harder reputation when he served in the Oregon Legislature in the 1990s, certainly has the organizational skills required to be a successful party leader. But his election by the GOP central committee on Saturday sends a message of defiant conservatism - one that's out of step with most Oregonians.

After the November defeat of Republican U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, the GOP no longer holds one solitary statewide office in Oregon. Some Republican leaders contend the party is losing elections because it doesn't uphold core principles - in other words, it isn't conservative enough.

But that argument defies logic. Oregon voters always have preferred candidates who reach toward the middle and show the pragmatism necessary for success. Perhaps we will be surprised by Tiernan's performance and the types of candidates the party recruits under his leadership. But for now, it looks as if GOP insiders are ignoring the lessons of November 2008 and committing themselves to more years of wandering in the political wilderness.