Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said that the RNC report draws the wrong lessons from 2012 and said Republicans should focus more on abortion and other divisive social issues.
“Social issues are keys to reaching certain minorities the GOP yearns to attract, as well as to motivate millions of voters who first gravitated to the party as Reagan Democrats,” she said in a statement.
The RNC wants to compress the primary calendar, stage fewer candidate debates and hold more primaries — which usually attract more mainstream voters — rather than caucuses, which tend to draw devoted partisans.
The proposals amount to an attempted course correction from 2012, when candidates with little funding or mainstream support used their debate performances and strong showings in caucuses to mount extended challenges to Mitt Romney, the eventual GOP nominee. Many party strategists think the process weakened Romney in his general-election fight against Obama.
But to many grass-roots conservatives, the rule changes would give establishment candidates further advantages and limit the opportunities for insurgent candidates such as Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), who struggled to win mainstream support but performed well in caucuses last year.
“I think the drive to move away from caucuses and conventions will be highly controversial for the Paul world, tea partyers and social conservatives,” said one adviser to Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), the congressman’s son and a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.
The RNC’s road map comes on the heels of last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, the biggest annual gathering of conservative activists, which brought new attention to the divergent ideas coursing through the Republican Party.
The plan also laid bare simmering divisions over the party’s performance. Priebus’s remarks included references to financial problems under Michael Steele, his predecessor as RNC chairman.
Steele responded tersely on MSNBC, referring to the GOP’s 2010 takeover of the House: “I won. And he didn’t.”
Rachel Weiner and Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.
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