The Republican Party may have a lot of problems, but one of them isn’t complacency among its top mainstream leadership.
GOP National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus commissioned a 100-page postmortem of the 2012 election in which both the White House and the Senate seemed eminently winnable. Instead, President Barack Obama handily won re-election, the Democrats tightened their control of the Senate and picked up a number of House seats at the expense of tea party Republicans.
The “Growth & Opportunity Project,” drafted by five veteran GOP operatives, gets points for brutal honesty:
“Asked to describe Republicans, focus groups said that the party is ‘scary,’ ‘narrow-minded’ and ‘out of touch’ and that we were a party of ‘stuffy old men.’ This is consistent with the findings of other post-election surveys.”
The report contrasted the GOP’s success at the statehouse level, where its governors are “appealing and inclusive,” to its ideologically rigid politics at the federal level. Without significant changes, the report said, “it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.”
The report came out as the party’s Conservative Political Action Conference was meeting in Washington. As it happens, the exclusionary, hard-right CPAC is an example of much that is wrong with the party.
Sarah Palin, who is unquestionably entertaining but has no realistic political future, was a featured speaker. Conspicuously snubbed was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whom recent polls show is the country’s most popular governor, as was Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, another rising star in the party.
Christie’s sin was getting too chummy with Obama as he desperately sought funds to rebuild his hurricane-battered state last fall. McDonnell’s was endorsing a tax increase to pay for badly overdue transportation projects.
The report recommended halving the number of primary debates – 20 in the 2012 cycle and 21 in 2008 – a grueling marathon that is perhaps one reason why so many of the GOP’s first string declined to run. It would give the party control of the debates and move the national convention to earlier in the summer.
The report also urged the party to embrace immigration reform, be less doctrinaire on social issues and invest in technology and field staff as the Democrats have done.
It’s a sound strategy.