WASHINGTON — People see the national Republican Party as narrow-minded and primarily for the rich, the party's national chairman said here Monday while unveiling a plan to restructure the organization and focus more on diversity.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said the party can grow and win national elections without compromising its principles if Republicans do a better job communicating with young voters and recruiting minority and women candidates.
Priebus, who asked party elders such as former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to conduct a review of the party following President Barack Obama's re-election last year, said the report finds no single reason for the GOP's loss.
“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,” Priebus said at the National Press Club.
The report analyzes most aspects of the party's operation, including how it picks its presidential nominees. Priebus said the party needs fewer debates, a shortened primary process and an earlier national convention.
The report says the party should discourage caucuses and conventions in states and encourage primaries since they include more people.
The report, compiled after contacts with 50,000 people, also says Republicans have to do a better job talking in “normal, people-oriented terms.”
Focus groups were conducted in Columbus, Ohio, and Des Moines, Iowa, to listen to voters who recently left the party.
“Asked to describe Republicans, they said that the Party is ‘scary,' ‘narrow-minded,' and ‘out of touch' and that we were a Party of ‘stuffy old men,'” the report says. “This is consistent with the findings of other postelection surveys.”
The report generally does not make policy recommendations but does say the party should “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”
And it says the party needs to ensure that “people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view.”
“Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the party is a place they want to be.”
Matt Pinnell, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, which has been growing in recent years, praised the report on Monday for its blunt message and inclusion of voices from around the country.
Pinnell said he didn't think the whole solution to attracting more Hispanics was supporting immigration reform.
He said the party's outreach should mean that Republicans don't shut down their operations in minority communities right after an election.
The party's message will resonate, Pinnell said, “but we have to be where they are.”
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, a former chief of staff at the Republican National Committee, said Monday, “Whenever a party loses a presidential election as important as the one in 2012, it ought to engage in serious reflection and analysis.
“I applaud Chairman Priebus for undertaking an exhaustive examination of the Republican national defeat in 2012 and for recommending a specific series of reforms and programs to correct deficiencies and make the party more competitive in 2014 and 2016.”
Whenever a party loses a presidential election as important as the one in 2012, it ought to engage in serious reflection and analysis.”
Rep. Tom Cole,