Republicans plan to stand behind liberal leader

Just because John McCain didn’t place his hand on a Bible before millions of people Tuesday doesn’t mean Republicans won’t support Barack Obama.

Republicans hope Obama succeeds as president because, regardless of party affiliation, he’s their leader, too. They’ll criticize policy decisions when warranted, but will otherwise pull for Obama to lead the country out of a recession, they said.

“It’s not time to look at the partisan end. We had a long and very difficult campaign that has stretched us and divided us,” said attorney and Republican adviser Tom Rath.

“It really is time to remember real people are hurting. There are real issues and it’s time to find common ground. He seems to be a person who emphasizes that.”

Other New Hampshire Republicans concurred with Rath: On the campaign trail, Obama promised to seek all opinions and govern with the support of those on both sides of the aisle.

Republicans obviously realize Obama will still forward policies based on a Democratic platform. The GOP will still disagree with the new president on philosophical ground and when the situation merits, several Republicans said.

But wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a sinking economy and other pressing issues call for Americans to unite behind Obama, they said. They’ll give him the benefit of the doubt as he tackles those difficult challenges, they said.

“He’s going to be my president, too,” Fergus Cullen said Friday, a day before stepping down as chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Committee and handing the reigns to former Gov. John H. Sununu. “As an American, I don’t want him to fail. I want him to have every opportunity to succeed.”

Cullen said he envisions President Obama tapping the same traits that he used to great advantage in a long, stressful presidential campaign.

“He showed he was very cautious during the campaign. He showed he was not rash,” Cullen said.

“Those are admirable qualities in a leader. I have no expectations he will start acting erratically.”

As with any new president, Obama will have a honeymoon period. But how long the grace period lasts depends on his performance, several Republicans said.

New Hampshire Senate Minority Leader Peter Bragdon supported John McCain, but hopes Obama succeeds.

But Bragdon cautioned that the excitement of a new administration could fade fast if Obama makes big mistakes.

Bragdon pointed to how Obama’s choice for Commerce secretary, Gov. Bill Richardson, already had to bow out because of an investigation in his home state of New Mexico and how Treasury secretary nominee Timothy Geithner has faced criticism for not paying all his taxes.

“He’s the leader of the country. I wish him well,” Bragdon said. “He certainly has his work cut out for him.”

One thing is certain among many Republicans: Despite a call for non-partisan support, not all Republicans believe Obama can fulfill every campaign promise – whereas many Democrats expect wide-ranging success from their new leader.

“He’s made hundreds of promises,” New Hampshire House Minority Leader Sherman Packard said. “But I don’t think the vast majority of them are realistic.”

Obama talks of reaching across the aisle in Congress, but the reality is he served only four years in the U.S. Senate and the last two years he spent most of his time campaigning for president, Packard said.

Still, Packard will give Obama the “benefit of the doubt” because Congress has a Democratic majority and because he wants to see the country fare well.

Republicans can disagree with Obama but must do so without rancor, Rath said.

“There will be very tough votes on a policy level,” he said. “Republicans should approach issues without being fractious. A reasonable discussion of remedies is fair, but not when it turns nasty.”

Robert Rowe, a Republican representative from Amherst, said he didn’t plant to watch the inauguration because he’d be busy in the Statehouse.

Rowe, a historian, nonetheless appreciates the understated element of the inauguration: how executive power changes hands seamlessly and by the will of the people.

“We have one of the most stable democracies and governments in the world,” Rowe said. The country can have a dramatic change in leadership, and the whole thing “still works.”