WASHINGTON – For many Republicans, this is a good weekend to get away from it all.
With hundreds of thousands of Democrats traveling to nation’s capital for President Barack Obama’s inauguration activities, Republicans and supporters of last fall’s GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, are leaving town, or staying put and trying to avoid the crowds.
After failing to recapture the White House for a second time, many are not exactly in a partying mood.
“It’s a good time to lay low,” said John Feehery, the president of Quinn Gillespie Communications and a former top congressional aide.
As Democrats prepare to mark Obama’s second inauguration on Monday by bundling up along the parade route or dressing up for balls, Republicans are spending the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend with quick vacation getaways, quiet time at home or trips to the movie theater.
Few plan any “mourning parties” or “bawls” that have been the staples of past inaugural festivities for the party out of power. But invitations to parties tend to be scarce if your candidate lost, and watching TV provides a constant reminder of November’s elections.
“Invitations must have gotten lost in the mail!” former Romney adviser Ed Gillespie wrote in an email saying he had no major plans for the weekend.
Charlie Spies, an attorney and co-founder of the pro-Romney super political action committee Restore Our Future, was in Las Vegas for the weekend, hosting about 100 Republicans, including some former Romney campaign aides, at events in the Wynn Las Vegas and Venetian Resort Hotel Casino.
Spies held a similar gathering for about 20 friends and associates four years ago but said he was surprised by the amount of interest this time.
“I was expecting more than 20 but no place near this response,” he said. “But I think people were excited to have an opportunity to be someplace other than D.C. and let President Obama and his supporters have their day in the sun.”
Ron Bonjean, a former Bush administration and congressional aide who runs a public affairs firm, convened a small work retreat at a resort in Mexico and said he planned to use the time to prepare for new challenges in 2013.
“It’s the perfect time for us to be productive and focused on the year ahead while Washington is consumed with swearing in the president,” he said.
Republicans will be part of the inauguration ceremony, with members of Congress gathered on the west front steps of the Capitol for Obama’s swearing-in. Many Republican lawmakers are attending state balls during the weekend to welcome their constituents.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., were among the GOP leaders who planned to attend an inauguration-related ball on Sunday night honoring members of the military.
After the parties end, the work to win back the White House begins. The Republican National Committee is holding its winter meeting in Charlotte, N.C., in the coming week. A major topic of discussion will be finding ways to reach out to minority voters and win elections.
Next weekend in Washington, a robust lineup of Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Romney’s running mate, and Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, will address conservatives at a conference organized by the National Review Institute.
For Republicans, this is a season of introspection and planning for the future.
“When you’re winning, you’re thinking about the possibilities. When you lose, you’re thinking about what went wrong,” Feehery said. “When you’re winning, you’re thinking about your next job. When you lose, you’re thinking about keeping your job.”