National Press Club

GOP chairman cites litany of party's 2012 failures, releases revitalization strategy

March 18, 2013 | By William Miller | williammiller512@aol.com

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told a National Press Club audience on March 18 that  that 2012 election was a "wake-up call" for his party. He released a 98-page report that evaluates its flaws and outlines a recovery plan. Club  Angela Greiling Keane moderated the event.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told a National Press Club audience on March 18 that that 2012 election was a "wake-up call" for his party. He released a 98-page report that evaluates its flaws and outlines a recovery plan. Club Angela Greiling Keane moderated the event.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, in a much-anticipated speech at a National Press Club breakfast March 18, released a searing 98-page report calling for massive changes in party strategy to recover from its 2012 election losses.

Terming the election setback “a wakeup call,” Priebus said the report, is a “frank, thorough and transparent assessment” of the defeat that paves the way for revitalization of the party for the 2014 and 2016 elections.

The report, months in the making, makes clear that “there’s no one reason we lost,” Priebus said. “Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement."

He added: “So there’s no one solution. There’s a long list of them.”

The report, titled the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” prescribes 219 specific recommendations for the party’s improvement.

One emphasis is the GOP’s messaging. Although the party’s values are sound, Priebus said, “the way we are communicating our principles isn’t resonating.”

Focus groups, he said, describe the party as “scary,” “narrow minded,” “out of touch,” and made up of “stuffy old men.” He said Republicans are “perceived as the party of the rich.”

To change that characterization, the report calls for a closer examination of successful party outreach at the state level, especially in minority communities; an aggressive marketing campaign on “what it means to be a Republican” and greater emphasis on focus groups and listening campaigns, Priebus said.

Otherwise, Priebus said, the report urges a robust demographic engagement campaign aimed at attracting minorities, women and young voters.

The report also recommends beefing up the party’s campaign mechanics, which Priebus said will include the hiring by May 1 of national political directors for Hispanic, Asian-Pacific and African-American voters.

Technology will get greater attention, too, Priebus said, through an overhaul of the party’s data infrastructure.

Finally, he said, the report endorses shortening the party’s primary election process, reducing the number of primary-election debates and moving the party’s convention to an earlier date.

Calling the report “new, big and bold,” Priebus said it it was important to make it public to show the GOP’s commitment to changing its face.

“This is an unprecedented thing, for a national party to put its cards on the table face up,” he said. “Maybe a few pieces of china needed to be broken.”

Asked to speculate about the GOP’s presidential candidate for 2016, Priebus said the party has “a lot of options,” with several “great new leaders.”

In response to another question about reaching out to gay voters, Priebus said that Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, “made some pretty big inroads” last week when he came out in support of gay marriage. But he did not endorse Portman’s stance, only the right of Portman to speak out.

As for his press relations, he said, “for the most part I’ve been treated fairly.” But he said the party needs to “go beyond our comfort zone” and reach out to reporters with whom it has had little contact.