Can Reince Priebus save the Republican Party?

March 18, 2013

Can Reince Priebus save the Republican Party?

In the wake of two presidential defeats, the Republican National Committee chairman on Monday issued a scathing review of the party's performance in 2012 and called for a top-to-bottom retooling of the party.

The proposed solutions include:

* A $10 million expenditure to begin a bottom-up outreach effort to minority communities including the hiring of national political directors for Hispanic, Asian-Pacific and African American voters.

* Putting a chief digital and technology officer in place, opening an RNC satellite office in San Francisco, holding hack-a-thons to bolster relationships with developers and working on an open-data platform to encourage the sharing of information within the GOP community (and outside of it).

* Reworking the presidential primary system to produce the party's nominee earlier in the year and then nominating him or her at a convention in June or July rather than late August or September.


These are elephants.

 

Priebus's tough talk comes less than 48 hours after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a leading light of the tea party/libertarian wing of the Republican party, told a packed crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference that their side was winning -- a contrast in approach and viewpoint that speaks to the immensity of the challenge before the head of the national party as he seeks to remake the GOP.

Proposals, of course, are just that. Priebus may sit at the top of the party but it's not clear whether he has the power to make these sorts of changes happen.

For that, he will need two things: (1) support from the major elected (and former elected) officials in the party, and (2) money.

The first seems likely to come as people such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan should find plenty in what Priebus is proposing to get behind.

The second is slightly more difficult, particularly with the GOP out of the presidency and with stories being written daily about the infighting that dominates his party at the moment. The RNC did end January with a respectable $7 million in the bank.

And then there is the larger (and more important) question of whether fixing the mechanics of the party -- outreach to minorities, data mining, etc. -- can fix the message of the party. Or whether the party really believes that message needs fixing.

"Our 80 percent friend is not our 20 percent enemy," Priebus will say. "We can be true to our platform without being disrespectful of those who don’t agree with it 100 percent."

It's not yet clear whether that view is one that the entire party can rally behind. Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul have built their political brands on refusing to concede on matters of principle. Will they start now -- particularly after finding so much success in recent weeks?

And, if they don't, all of Priebus's planning and proposals could well be for naught since the Pauls and Cruzes of the world have shown a remarkable knack for drawing media attention to themselves.

All that said, Priebus should get credit for attempting to lead the party at a time when the GOP lacks any obvious top dog to guide it back toward victory.

Fixbits:

President Obama will nominate Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez as the next labor secretary today. He's the first Latino selection for the president's second-term cabinet.

House Democrats will propose balancing the budget by about 2040.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) opened the door to new tax revenue.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he "absolutely" trusts Obama. He also said he believes the debt crisis isn't "immediate," but rather, a "looming" problem.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) won the CPAC straw poll.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin brought out the one-liners in her speech at the conference.

Mia Love has hired Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch's top strategist as she moves toward a rematch against Rep. Jim Matheson (D).

Might Gov. Scott Walker (R) run for president? What about Ben Carson (R)?

Former Washington governor Booth Gardner died Friday. He was 76.

Must-reads: 

"For Obama, trip is a chance to repair relations with disappointed Israelis" -- Scott Wilson, The Washington Post

"Senate panel close to Obama plan on path to citizenship for illegal immigrants" -- David Nakamura and Rosalind S. Helderman, The Washington Post

"GOP Taps Tech Allies To Narrow Digital Gap" -- Neil King Jr., Wall Street Journal

"Palmetto State Showdown: Sanford Vs. ?" -- Joshua Miller, Roll Call

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