In a half-hour segment on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, the varying threads of the GOP political psychology came into sharp contrast. On one side sat Charlie Crist, the moderate governor of the state of Florida, who not only openly campaigned for the president's stimulus package but also sent some very public plaudits the Obama's way.
"I think there is a national leader, his name is President Obama," he told host David Gregory when asked if his own party had national leaders. "The people elected him. And I'm willing to give him a good shot and try to help make this work. We're in a tough time, as we talked about before. I think we do need to be bipartisan. We need to be, in fact, nonpartisan. We're all Americans. Our country is at a dire point and we need to do everything we can to work together to get America through this."
Pressed as to whether he thought "the president has the right prescription to ease this recession," the Florida Republican replied, without pausing: "I think he's on the right track." Asked if he thought it was a mistake for "the Republican Party to define itself by opposition to the stimulus," he said: "It may be."
The show's other guest, Bobby Jindal, did not offer such willing praise for the president. The Louisiana Governor, known superficially as the conservative Obama, pledged that the party would and should work in a bipartisan fashion. But his pitch was one of philosophical defiance, especially on matters like the stimulus.
"The Republican Party has got to offer conservative alternative solutions. I think our obligation is to work with the president every chance we can, to be bipartisan," he told Gregory. "We need to work with the president every chance we can. But on principle we should be unafraid to stand up on principle and to point out our alternative solutions."
The two governors, both rumored to harbor presidential ambitions, represent the current bookends of Republican thought. Their appearances on "Meet the Press" underscored the complex question facing the party. How does the GOP restore its power: through reaffirming principles or expanding its approach? Not surprisingly, the two had different diagnoses when it came to rebuilding the Republican brand.
JINDAL: "I don't think we expand by becoming an imitation of the other party. I think we expand by standing on principle for what we believe in. I think that attracts voters. They may not agree with us on everything, but they will respect our honesty and will respect the results."
CRIST: "You shouldn't be the party of no. Well, there's a time to say no. But I think you need to be a party that works across the aisle, where you participate. Both [Republicans and Democrats] have to do that. I think it's important for both Democrats and Republicans to work together for Americans."