The plan called for Republicans to embrace comprehensive immigration reform, overhaul the party’s digital and research operations, and hold a shorter, more controlled presidential primary season. Priebus also announced a $10 million plan to dispatch GOP operatives to black, Latino and Asian American communities, which voted overwhelmingly to reelect President Obama.
“There’s no one reason we lost,” Priebus said of November’s elections, in which Democrats held the White House, kept control of the Senate and gained seats in the House. “Our message was weak, our ground game was insufficient, we weren’t inclusive, we were behind in both data and digital, and our primary and debate process needed improvement.”
Priebus added: “When Republicans lost in November, it was a wake-up call. We know that we have problems. We’ve identified them, and we’re implementing the solutions to fix them.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) declared the plan a “fantastic job by all involved,” while former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) hailed it as “historic” and the “first big step toward [a] GOP majority.”
But even many Republicans who praised the proposal said it was only a partial response to the party’s problems, which include policy positions that alienate growing minority groups. Strategists said the party still needs to recast conservatism to appeal to Latino and Asian voters as well as college-educated women.
“We ran out of white voters” in the 2012 election, said Alex Castellanos, a longtime GOP strategist. Republicans must establish a policy agenda that goes beyond being “the party of ‘no’ and an alternative to big, old, slow, top-down industrial-age government,” he said.
Championing immigration reform is a productive start, said Mike Murphy, another longtime strategist. But he said Republicans should also adopt a softer stance on other social issues, such as same-sex marriage.
“The most important message from the campaign was that the electorate is changing and we have to be in front of that, not behind it,” Murphy said. “Modernizing the mechanics is a great way to communicate to the new electorate, but the most important thing is how do we appeal to them with the policy agenda of a modernized conservatism?”
The RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” report is the product of a listening tour by Priebus and several leading GOP strategists. “Focus groups described our party as ‘narrow-minded,’ ‘out of touch’ and ‘stuffy old men,’ ” Priebus said. “The perception that we’re the party of the rich continues to grow.”