The Republican U.S. senator sits glumly across the restaurant table.
"I don't think we have learned much from the election in terms of what people want to see," he says. "We have the same gridlock."
By the "same gridlock," he means that party hard-liners, both Democrats and Republicans, will remain in control of the machinery of Congress. And that means more of the same. It means more politics as usual especially in his party.
"We need someone who speaks from the center," he says. "Sarah Palin is not the voice of our party."
He talks a little about immigration. He is a moderate on immigration, which is to say he is out of step with most of his party. He says the Republican hard line on immigration hurt the party with Hispanics.
Barack Obama won about two-thirds of the Hispanic vote this year, up from the 53 percent that John Kerry won in 2004.
And the Republicans are very, very worried about the Hispanic vote. They see the African-American vote as largely gone, but the Hispanic vote was a possibility in future elections. If only Republicans knew how to appeal to Hispanic voters.
"We have to become much more attuned to the rhetoric and issues that Hispanics care about," the senator says. "We have to talk about education, family, and moral issues like gay marriage and abortion."
"The perception among Hispanics is that the Republican Party is the party of the rich," he says, pausing. "And, in many ways, it is."
He saw the problem as the presidential campaign advanced. The old labels that the Republicans used to hang on the Democrats did not stick.
"The Democrats talked about middle-class tax cuts! They weren't the party of the poor anymore! They weren't the party of gun control anymore! What did Republicans want? Tax cuts for the rich! And small government," he says.
Small government the mantra of the Republican Party ever since Ronald Reagan will not work anymore, the senator says.
"We can't revive the ghost of Ronald Reagan," he says. "People want government in times of need."
The election was a botch. "John McCain was not a good messenger once you got past the issue of Iraq," the senator says. "He was a horrible messenger. Obama was never off message for one second, except maybe [when he met] Joe the Plumber. John was a very undisciplined politician running against a very disciplined politician."
The senator is asked what he thinks George W. Bush's legacy will be. There is a long pause, which is followed by an even longer pause.
"Homeownership?" the senator says eventually. "That's not so good, is it?"
"But he led with his heart!" the senator goes on. "Look what he did after 9/11. OK, he should have landed the airplane in New Orleans [after Hurricane Katrina]. But on Iraq, all he did [i.e., invade] is what Hillary would have done."
So what about the future of the Republican Party? Who are the future leaders?
"Jeb Bush could do so much for our party, but his name is Bush," the senator says. "Maybe he should use his middle name, Ellis Jeb Ellis! Or I could adopt him, and he could use my name!"
The senator was smiling for a moment, but now he grows serious again. "I don't know what his path to the presidency is," he says. "Sarah Palin seems to have been anointed by the media. But I don't know how she becomes the voice of the party by the power of her ideas or by going to Lincoln Day dinners in Iowa or Florida. But I did rallies with her, and she is a phenomenon."
He throws out some other names: Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Charlie Crist and Bobby Jindal, the 37-year-old governor of Louisiana. "Jindal is a rising star from the get-go," the senator says.
But the Republicans have got to be about accomplishments and not just rhetoric, he adds.
"Over the next couple of years, we need to be pragmatists," he says. "Our battles should not be over ideology; they should be about getting things done."
There is a bright side. Now that the Democrats control the White House and Congress, they will get blamed for everything that goes wrong.
"Things can turn," the senator says, growing less glum. "These are pretty tough times to be in charge. These are pretty tough times to have power."