But as they watched one state after another go to President Obama and Senate seats fall away, party leaders quickly expanded and retooled their efforts. Officials told The Washington Post that they’re planning a series of voter-based polls and focus groups, meetings with constituency group leaders, and in-depth discussions with their volunteers, donors and staff members to find ways to broaden their appeal.
The review is a recognition that party leaders were confounded by the electorate that showed up on Tuesday. Republican officials said that they met all of their turnout goals but that they underestimated who would turn out for the other side.
Party officials said the review is aimed at studying their tactics and message, not at changing the philosophical underpinnings of the party.
“This is no different than a patient going to see a doctor,” said Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s spokesman. “Your number one thing is to say, ‘I’m not feeling well. Tell me what the problem is. Run some tests on me.’ ”
Tuesday’s results, along with national and state-level exit polls, illustrated the depth of the GOP’s challenges and its growing weaknesses among crucial constituencies, such as Hispanics and women.
Many Hispanics were turned off by tough talk on immigration from Romney during the primary campaign, while Democrats think their candidates benefited from Republican policies on women’s health issues and verbal miscues on rape.
Underscoring the thoroughness of the GOP defeat, a Florida exit poll showed that Cuban Americans went for Obama by 49 percent to 47 percent — a watershed moment for a group that has been solidly Republican for a generation.
The review comes amid signs that the election results have pushed some conservative leaders and officials to consider tackling one of the most politically touchy issues for many Republicans: whether to put millions of illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. For years, conservatives have blocked immigration legislation. But seeing Obama win seven in 10 Hispanic voters appears to have left some wondering whether it is time to compromise, particularly with the president pledging to make the issue a centerpiece of his second-term agenda.
The Internet was buzzing late Thursday as word spread that Fox News Channel commentator Sean Hannity declared he had “evolved” on the issue and now thinks illegal immigrants without criminal records should have a “pathway to citizenship.”
In an interview Thursday with ABC News’s Diane Sawyer, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said the immigration issue “has been around far too long.” He said a “comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”