SAVANNAH -- Defiance of Washington was the dominant theme Saturday at the state Republican convention in Savannah.
Speaker after speaker on the second and final day of the gathering lashed out at what was described as overbearing federal authority.
The rhetoric reflected the GOP's search for a way to reverse its 2008 losses; Georgia is one of the party's few remaining strongholds.
Former U.S. Senate candidate Herman Cain reminded conventioneers of a clause in the Declaration of Independence.
That historic document, Cain said, asserts the people may "alter or abolish" regimes that deny their rights.
"I challenge you to leave with a fighting spirit," he told convention delegates. "We have a fight on our hands."
GOP national Chairman Michael Steele said federal spending programs are undermining values such as hard work and thrift.
The government is trying to make the American people "more dependent, less industrious and less ambitious than our values," Steele said.
Elected this year as the first black to lead the national party, Steele drew a standing ovation when he was introduced.
Chatham County Commissioner Helen Stone said his message was inspirational.
She said she especially liked it when he said people shouldn't "look to the government to take care of us ... from the top down."
States' rights backed
Other speakers defended states' rights, claiming the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama is usurping the U.S. Constitution.
Gov. Sonny Perdue cited news reports that federal funds have become the biggest source of revenue for state and local governments.
"If the president can decide which companies survive ... (and) name CEOs," he asked, "... how long will it be before he can make all the decisions in Georgia?"
Two resolutions that passed Saturday endorsed the concept of "state sovereignty."
That made sense to former Chatham County GOP Chairman Jerry Loupee.
"I think that's been a growing issue," Loupee said. "The federal government's actions ... are really getting people worried and shook up. A lot of us feel like they're violating the Constitution."
Nothing to 're-'
Steele rejected calls for his party to "rebrand" itself to appeal to moderates.
He said the GOP does not need to "remake, redo, rebrand, rebuild, re-anything."
"That's going backward," he added. "We don't have to remake anything. What are we going to remake? Our values? To do so says they're not true."
Steele said Republicans lost big last year not because they were too conservative, but because they communicated badly.
"We dropped the ball," the former Maryland lieutenant governor added.
He asked members of Young Republicans, College Republicans and Teenage Republicans at the gathering to stand and said the young activists should not be considered the party's future but its "here and now."
"I've freed you up from forever asking for permission to do anything," he told the young activists. "Not when you're 50, (but) right now."
He urged them to be strong voices on college campuses, in work places and within the party.
Noting Obama's strong showing among young voters, local GOP youth volunteer Martin Sullivan welcomed the challenge.
"If we don't energize 20- and 30-somethings, we can't win," Sullivan said. "We need to reach out to our age group and get them involved. We can't win just by being the party of older people."
As on Friday, the convention's opening day, the six Republicans running for governor next year vied for attention.
Some worked the convention floor, shaking hands and posing for pictures with delegates.
All six had tables with bumper stickers, leaflets and other campaign hardware. However, Ray McBerry was the only one who offered old-fashioned, metal campaign buttons.
All spoke Friday, but three got to talk again Saturday because of the offices they hold.
Secretary of State Karen Handel and State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine touted the work of their respective agencies. U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal described federal legislation he is pushing.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Eric Johnson, of Savannah, drew steady traffic to a suite where guests were served - among other morsels - bacon-wrapped sausage.
"It's the best food here," said U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah, a Johnson supporter, "which means money, which means support, which means next governor."