Voters facing a struggling economy under the Bush presidency ushered in a new young Democratic President. Republicans wandered in the minority in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Democrats promoted policies of socialized healthcare, reducing the military, and liberal tax and spend policies. The year was 1993 and Republicans desperately needed leadership to deliver them from infighting and defeat.

That year a Republican from Mississippi named Haley Barbour moved into a new office at 310 First Street Southeast in Washington DC: office of the Republican National Committee Chairman.

In and essay for The Ripon Forum in February 2007, Barbour described what he did next: "From my first day as Chairman of the RNC, I was determined to restore the Republican Party to its rightful position as the 'party of ideas.' One of the first things I did at the RNC in 1993 was to send out a letter to 280,000 Republican leaders and donors. We specifically told the recipients 'Don't send money.' Instead, we asked them to complete a long questionnaire that seriously explored various options on critical public policy issues. It took about an hour to complete the survey, yet more than 80,000 took the time to do just that. It was a powerful affirmation of how central ideas are to political participation and involvement."

Barbour said the results "confirmed the GOP is the center-right party of the United States, but it is a broad, diverse party. Yes, we're the conservative party, and the Democrats are the liberal party; but you don't have to agree with Haley Barbour on everything to be a good Republican."

Barbour used those results to launch the National Policy Forum - a center-right idea factory to help the Republican Party regain its status as the party of ideas. NPF conducted a "Listening to America" tour with 70 sessions in communities across the country. Louis Zickar explained in the December 2006 of The Ripon Forum that the policies discussed in the heartland were the same NPF were discussing on Capitol Hill and "the objective of the tour was not just to promote the GOP. It was also to promote ideas."

A few months after the Listening to America Tour, the GOP unveiled "The Contract with America": ten positive policy items that defined Republican congressional campaigns and never once mentioned the Democrats or Bill Clinton. The Contract listed solid conservative policies, but also ideas that appealed to a majority of the citizens. House Republican Leader Newt Gingrich, one of the Contract's architects, called them "60 percent" issues because even if someone did not agree with the full contract, a clear majority of voters support each specific issue.

Six weeks after launching the Contract, those ideas rooted in groups like Barbour's National Policy Forum and the Heritage Foundation, swept the electorate and delivered a historic win to the GOP in the 1994 congressional midterm election.

Now, Fifteen years later, Republicans are sitting in a Starbucks nursing a political hangover, again without power in Washington DC. They're reading the business section of the newspaper telling everyone who walks by that we must stop the dangerous and reckless spending by the new administration. Many of those java patrons are sympathetic but continue walking because "stop" and "no" are not realistic alternative plans.

In their despair, some Republicans are considering the defeatism, "If you can't beat them, join them." But the answer to the Republican dilemma is not to follow the 2008 model of moderating the party - essentially chasing Pepsi with New Coke. But to return to Coca Cola Classic: a party of ideas, right of center, with polices most Americans want to support.

So last week, former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and pollster Whit Ayers launched Resurgent Republic, a new Republican ideas factory of academics, pollsters and strategists. Haley Barbour has a head seat at the table, joined by former National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman George Allen, former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Bill Paxon, New Orleans based presidential consultant and advisor Mary Matalin, and others.

Leaders in the polling division of this new policy group include Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group which did polling for Barbour's successful 2003 and 2007 campaigns for governor, and Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies which provided polling services for Senator Roger Wicker's successful 2008 statewide campaign.

Barbour, Gillespie, Matalin, Goeas, Bolger: they know how conservatives can win and it appears to be based on two Barbour maxims from his work in the Reagan Administration: 1) good policy is good politics and 2) be for what you're for.

The group's first polling analyses focused on the economy, federal budget, and energy issues. The results show America remains a center-right country, independents are responding to Republican budget messages, and "on the overall philosophy of government and on national security, Republicans show signs of gaining ground."

If Republicans can articulate the conservative ideas most Americans support, then this second Barbour affiliated ideas factory may repeat history in 2010.

Brian Perry, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at