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Welch on Tea Party, GOP: Where's 'Vision'?

The Tea Party was about "60 percent positive" in Tuesday's elections, but Republicans will need to sharpen their message if the success is to carry through, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch said.

Jack Welch
AP
Jack Welch

Speaking two days after an election that saw Republicans take control of the House of Representativesand come within a few seats of a Senate majority, Welch said the GOP has to focus on a job-creating agenda going forward.

"The Republican Party has a real challenge and I think more than I've ever seen in my life they need a vision," he told CNBC. Prospective House Speaker John Boehner "has to be out there saying the whole game we're into is economic growth, grow the size of the pie. When we grow the size of the pie, we create jobs. When we create jobs, the American dream comes alive again."

Welch, who ran CNBC.com-parent GE from 1981 to 2001 cautioned Boehner against being "a flamboyant Newt Gingrich," referring to the former House speaker who led a Republican House takeover in 1994 during the Bill Clinton administration.

While the Republicans that year staged a historic congressional coup in which they also took Senate control, the party later suffered during a budget stalemate with Clinton that ultimately saw the government shut down for a short period of time.

The Tea Party, a grassroots movement that emerged in the wake of the financial crisis, stresses that it is not part of any established political party. However, it primarly supported Republican leaning candidates.

Arguing for the full repeal of health care, for example, won't do the party good unless it can also demonstrate why the new law will be anti-jobs, Welch said, pointing to the rule that requires businesses with more than 50 employees to provide coverage or participate in the government-run program.

"This has got to be thematic," he said. "Take the policy part and say, 'This will get jobs, I'm not voting for this because it will not create jobs.' If you do that you won't look like an old white party acting like you don't like anything."

Republicans should be careful not to assume too broad a mandate, Welch added.

"If we get wild gridlock and we don't get constructive discussion about these policies, we won't be better off but no worse off," he said. "You can't be anti-regulation. You've got to talk about what the regulation does to kill jobs. The American people voted. We want economic growth. We want more jobs."

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