Thanks very much to Sen. Cornyn for his willingness to reach out to us on this issue. — Erick

Two and a half years ago, the Republican Party suffered a major blow in the 2006 midterm elections as the Democrats regained control of Congress and began laying the groundwork to take back the White House in 2008.

As a Party, we were stunned. Having failed to anticipate shifting national dynamics and the growing appetite for change in America, we lost critical voting constituencies including independents, Hispanics, and young voters nationwide. And with Barack Obama’s overwhelming victory in 2008, the Democrats acquired an even broader and stronger majority in Congress, leaving Republicans with very little power in Washington to fight against wasteful spending as our nation spiraled into an economic crisis.

Many rightfully wondered where our Party would turn to regain the ground we lost.

With an almost filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid at the helm in Washington, the Democrats have already successfully used their majority to grow our nation’s debt to more than $11 trillion in just four months. They’ve promised to wage a battle on card check, healthcare, and energy. And they may attempt to ram through the President’s new Supreme Court nominee before Republicans are given adequate time to review her record. After Senator Specter’s party switch earlier this month, the Democrats effectively control everything in Washington, leaving us with little power to push back on their liberal agenda.

While this political environment appears dire and presents short-term setbacks for Republicans, I believe that it also provides us with a real opportunity for 2010. Next November could be a turning point for the future of our Party – but only if we unite and take advantage of this critical opportunity. That means holding the Democrats accountable for their records, providing real solutions, reaching out to new constituencies, and fielding candidates who can win in states where Republicans have traditionally failed to wage competitive races.

Some believe that we should be a monolithic Party; I disagree. While we all might wish for a Party comprised only of people who agree with us 100 percent of the time, this is a pipedream. Each Party is fundamentally a coalition of individuals rallying around core principles with some variations along the way. My job as Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is to recruit candidates who have the best chance of winning and holding seats – and to do so in as many states as possible. Earlier this month, two Republicans candidates emerged for the open Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez in the Sunshine State: Marco Rubio, the young and talented Hispanic former Speaker of the state House, and Charlie Crist, the state’s popular Governor.

There is no doubt both of these candidates have a bright future in the Republican Party. But with his record of leadership and astronomical approval ratings, including strong numbers among Republicans, Democrats and Independents, Charlie Crist represents the best chance for Republicans to hold this seat in Florida. That is why I endorsed Governor Crist for the U.S. Senate. That is also why Governor Crist was endorsed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, outgoing Florida U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, U.S. Senator John McCain, and other leaders within the Republican Party.

The NRSC’s endorsement is not a reflection on Marco Rubio; it is a realistic assessment of both the 2010 Florida Senate race and the national map. With the Democrats standing on the precipice of a filibuster-proof majority, we cannot afford to lose this seat in 2010. Endorsing Charlie Crist will save the NRSC precious resources that can be used to fight in other states. It will also ensure that the strongest Republican candidate maintains control of this seat, and build our numbers with the resulting opportunity to shape policy.

While Rubio is certainly an up-and-comer in Florida, a recent Mason Dixon poll showed that he only has a 44 percent name ID among Republicans, which will ultimately force him to spend a lot more money introducing himself to Floridians. Govenor Crist, in contrast, has a 100 percent name ID among Republicans, according to the same poll. In a general election match-up with Democrat Congressman Kendrick Meek, Charlie Crist wins handily 55 percent to 24 percent.

We have a chance to field competitive candidates in Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, California, Arkansas, and Colorado in 2010. But in order to succeed, we need candidates who fit their states. Winning back the majority requires not only that we hold the Democrats accountable, but also that we embrace the vast number of issues upon which Republicans agree. Failing to do so will hand the Democrats yet another victory in 2010, and deny the American people a check on Democrat-controlled government.

If we succeed in electing Republican Senators in 2010, issues like relocating Gitmo detainees to the United States, socializing healthcare, and eliminating workers’ secret ballots may never reach the floor of the United States Senate. But we have to work together to make that a reality. The tides are turning, and Republicans have an opportunity in 2010. However, we cannot win if we are focused on tearing each other down.

We have a chance in 2010 to unite around our common goal to rebuild the Republican Party and fight against the Democrats’ agenda. I hope that all Republicans will join me in that fight.