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Republicans: GOP needs to get with the times

By Kasie Hunt and Steve Peoples

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:05 a.m. HST, Nov 17, 2012

WASHINGTON » To hear some Republicans tell it, the Grand Old Party needs to get with the times.

Some of the early prescriptions offered by officials and operatives to rebuild after devastating elections: retool the party message to appeal to Latinos, women and working-class people; upgrade antiquated get-out-the-vote systems with the latest technology. Teach candidates how to handle the new media landscape.

From longtime GOP luminaries to the party’s rising stars, almost everyone asked about the Republicans’ Nov. 6 election drubbing seems to agree that a wholesale update is necessary for a party that appears to be running years behind Democrats in adapting to rapidly changing campaigns and an evolving electorate.

Interviews with more than a dozen Republicans at all levels of the party indicated that postelection soul-searching must quickly turn into a period of action.

“We’ve got to have a very brutally honest review from stem to stern of what we did and what we didn’t do, and what worked and what failed,” said former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who ran the party in the 1990s.

The party “has to modernize in a whole wide range of ways,” added former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who ran against White House nominee Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential primary. “We were clearly wrong on a whole range of fronts.”

To determine what went wrong, the Republican National Committee is examining every detail of the 2012 elections, with the goal of rebuilding the party for the future — much as the Democratic Party did in the 1980s after suffering a series of stinging losses at all levels of government.

Now, as was the case back then, the stakes are enormous for the party that failed to win the White House and has lost the popular vote for several national elections in a row. They’re perhaps even higher for Republicans grappling for ways to court a rapidly changing electorate whose voting groups don’t naturally gravitate toward the GOP. The dangers of failing to act could be severe: permanent minority status.

So it’s little surprise that, after the election, some Republicans were quick to sound stark warnings.

The scale of the losses largely shocked a party whose top-shelf operatives went into Election Day believing Republicans had at least a decent chance of capturing the White House and gaining ground in Congress, where Republicans controlled the House and had a sizable minority in the Senate.

Instead, Romney lost all but one of the nine contested states, North Carolina, to President Barack Obama and was trounced in the electoral vote. Republicans also lost ground to Democrats in both houses of Congress, though Republicans retained their House majority.

How to move forward dominated the discussions at last week’s Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas, where some of the party’s leading voices castigated Romney’s assessment — made in what was supposed to be a private telephone call to donors — that Obama won re-election because of the “gifts” the president had provided to blacks, Hispanics and young voters. These governors faulted Romney.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal attributed Romney’s loss to a lack of “a specific vision that connected with the American people.”

Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who describes himself as a “pro-choice moderate Republican,” echoed Republicans across the spectrum when he said last week: “We need to be a larger-tent party.” Brown lost his seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

Across the board, Republicans say that arguably the most urgent task facing the party is changing its attitude about immigration as it looks to woo Hispanics. This rapidly growing group voted overwhelmingly for Obama, by margins of 7-to-1 over Romney, who had shifted to the right on the issue during the GOP primary.

It didn’t take long after the election for even staunch conservatives to start changing their tune on immigration. Days after the election, even conservative TV host Sean Hannity said he would support an immigration bill.

Said Barbour: “If we would be for good economic policy in terms of immigration, that would go a long way toward solving the political problem.”

It’s not just Hispanics.

Republicans said they also have work to do with single women and younger voters, many of whom tend to be more liberal on social issues than the current Republican Party. These Republicans said a change in tone is needed, though not a change in principles such as opposition to abortion.

“We need to make sure that we’re not perceived as intolerant,” said Ron Kaufman, a veteran Republican strategist who advised Romney’s campaign. “The bottom line is we were perceived to be intolerant on some issues. And tone-deaf on others.”

Republicans also said the party has to work on its relationship with working-class voters.

“Republicans have to start understanding that small business and entrepreneurs are important, but the people who work for them are also important,” said Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H., who lost his seat to Democrat Ann Kuster. “We’ve got to be compassionate conservatives.”

Party leaders also said the GOP needs to change how it communicates its message. Obama’s campaign, they said, was particularly effective at talking directly to voters, and building relationships over long periods of time, whereas the GOP was more focused on top-down communication such as TV ads and direct mail.

“There are whole sections of the American public that we didn’t even engage with,” Gingrich said.

Others pointed to the pressing need to recruit candidates who know how to stick to a carefully honed message, especially in a Twitter-driven era. Among their case studies: Senate candidates Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Todd Akin in Missouri, who both discussed rape and pregnancy during the campaign, to the chagrin of party leaders looking to narrow the Democrats’ advantage among women.

“We need candidates who are capable of articulating their policy positions without alienating massive voting blocs,” said Kevin McLaughlin, a Republican operative who worked on several Senate races for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Many Republicans say the party doesn’t have a choice but to change — and quickly.

Said Kaufmann: “In this business, either you learn and grow or you die.”

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mokebla wrote:
Changes is good, but to give up your core values to appease the left is not the way to go. You can get right or get left, selah~
on November 17,2012 | 04:43AM
KeithHaugen wrote:
The GOP core values? Like, the rich are supposed to get richer, off the backs of the poor and what is left of America`s middle class. That's a core value?
on November 17,2012 | 04:52AM
Taisho808 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 17,2012 | 05:34AM
hawaiikone wrote:
You and haugen, keep it up. That'll really bring unity and progress.
on November 17,2012 | 06:16AM
Taisho808 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 17,2012 | 06:22AM
hawaiikone wrote:
So your definition of "unity and progress" means agreeing with everything democrats want. Sorry, to many of us care too much for this country to allow that to happen.
on November 17,2012 | 08:02AM
MightyMakiki wrote:
You gotta stick to your principles. Cut Government. and cut it now. Forget all that other stuff
on November 17,2012 | 10:38AM
meatgrinda wrote:
If YOU paid any attention YOU would have known that BO and his ADMIN. were the OBSTUCTORS. Its obvious that YOU like to hear only what you want to hear. You better have a deep wallet, because the times will be changing for a higher cost of living. Not a higher quality of life.
on November 17,2012 | 09:38AM
64hoo wrote:
the first 2 years when oabama won the presidency he had a demcrat control in the house and senate and still they did'nt get nothing done so 2014 won't mean nothing if the dems take control it will be same old thing spend spend spend spend until we are more in debt. so stop fooling yourself if you think 2014 will be any better.
on November 17,2012 | 01:43PM
false wrote:
Keith and Taisho

Why try to help them understand why they lose elections? They lose elections because they do not want to learn. They are too busy TELLING to spend time listening. THEY are the "job creators," worthy of praise and tax cuts. You and I might think jobs are created when customers buy goods and services, so the customers are the "job creators." But obviously, our views are unbalanced.

A few of their elected officials, who NEED to win elections if they are going to remain "leaders," have been forced to re-evealuate their failed election campaign. It is clear from comments here many Republican activists do not think they did anything wrong. The problem is "the voters are dumb." Or Barack the crypto-Muslim secret Kenyan commie bribed enough voters with "stuff," because blacks, women, gays, Latinos "want stuff." Unlike the rich, who only want tax cuts, not because tax cuts brings "stuff," but because "it is good economic policy."

If you engage these wounded Republicans, you are likely to have them turn on you. Or, more worse, they might something and win an occasional election, which only makes them more troublesome. I suggest leave them wallowing. And bellowing. And licking their wounds.

on November 17,2012 | 06:20PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Thinking is an acquired skill, Hawaiikone. Emotional response to the world is a feature that comes with birth. Some (like these two) never get far beyond the latter. The question is can the GOP reach a number of thinkers required to stay viable. I seriously don't know the answer. It seems that K through university level education is firmly biased against rational thought (outside math, engineering, and the sciences). Media, outside a few conservative outlets, are totally in the tank for the left, always have been. Popular entertainment, same thing. So, it will be a hard pull to fight against the tide of math-challenged, brainless, malicious(in the case of the true Marxists at work here) emotion-based thinking. However, it is more than worth it, because there is no real choice unless we're willing to let the clear direction of "progressive liberalism" finish the job of destroying what our national founders created.
on November 17,2012 | 07:56AM
meatgrinda wrote:
Spoken like a true LOON. Always play the card when someone disagrees. Sad case.
on November 17,2012 | 10:12AM
meatgrinda wrote:
What is rich and what is poor?
on November 17,2012 | 09:38AM
64hoo wrote:
and the dems core value is to spend spend spend spend and tax the middle class when obama won the president election in 2008 for 2 tears he had a control in the house and senate and all they did was hurt the middle class and close small business thats there core value.
on November 17,2012 | 01:49PM
Kalli wrote:
Romney ran a great campaign and had an electable message but Obama ran a media campaign. He was on every talk show, he pitched for the Red Cross on a nationwide commercial after Sandy, he gave amnesty to Latino kids, he promised to forgive student loans. How much can he promise just to win. Appparently enough.
on November 17,2012 | 04:43AM
KeithHaugen wrote:
Romney just didn't have what the voters wanted.
on November 17,2012 | 04:53AM
Highinthesierras wrote:
Well, about 1/2 liked his message, the other half liked Barry's. Problem is, neither had a clear message. So now, confusion will reign for another four years. Then, maybe, just maybe, someone will actually clearly set out a positive program that he, or she, will actually implement. I know, wishful thinking
on November 17,2012 | 06:26AM
Pacej001 wrote:
You're finally right: Free stuff! The dream of many Obama voters (thinking not required). Endless entitlements (borrowed from China), endless social security (whether earned or not), endless government expansion (whether effective or not), endless perfection of effortless economic prosperity(whether worked for or not). You got it. Aside from the nastiest campaign of personal destruction (against Romney) in decades, a campaign based on widening/inflaming the race/class/gender divide, your candidate did just that. He gave you what you wanted. He kept the illusion alive that the welfare state is infinite and that our prosperity and freedom are things that are "rights" that no longer need to be worked for.
on November 17,2012 | 07:44AM
meatgrinda wrote:
Romney wanted: Less spending Smaller Gov. Economic Stability Job growth Cheaper Health Care Only the stupid voters didn't want that. And so STUPID won.
on November 17,2012 | 10:17AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Don't usually agree with you but this time I do. If the GOP rana more middle of the road candidate, the candidate would have won easily. But, they didn't
on November 17,2012 | 12:59PM
iansuen wrote:
It doesn't matter. We can criticize the voters for being for wanting handouts and "free stuff" from the government, but the GOP will continue to suffer if their messages do not resonate with the changing demographics.
on November 17,2012 | 05:15AM
meatgrinda wrote:
The GOP doesn't have to change anything. People just have to pay attention.
on November 17,2012 | 10:19AM
iansuen wrote:
Pay attention to what? I guarantee you the GOP will lose time and time again if they constantly favor the status-quo and don't appeal to younger, urban, minority voters.
on November 17,2012 | 11:54AM
allie wrote:
Romney was a total joke but Democrats today are just what moderate Republicans used to be-like Eisenhower-decades ago.
on November 17,2012 | 06:21AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Silly, inaccurate comment. Democrats have gone full Trotsky on us, further left than any time in our history.
on November 17,2012 | 07:46AM
hawaiikone wrote:
"Silly, inaccurate comments" are her norm..
on November 17,2012 | 08:03AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Allie can think. (Once upon a time she offered some interesting insight, based on research, into the WWII era in the islands (think that was it). However, on some subjects, she just elects not to. No offense, Allie, but you're surrounded by the Manoa liberal indoctrination cocoon. Fight it.
on November 17,2012 | 08:34AM
Highinthesierras wrote:
Freebies are great, so Dems have the better argument no doubt. But as Greece learned, there are limits. The basic problem is that the rich folks are not sitting ducks. As the old saying goes, "capital is a coward," in other words, folks pick up and move. The jobs, income and tax revenue goes with them. Watch CA over the next few years. For the past 10 years CA has lost 4 million of its wealthier folks, many of whom moved their businesses. That number will increase.
on November 17,2012 | 06:42AM
dt44 wrote:
Party leaders also said the GOP needs to change how it communicates its message. Others pointed to the pressing need to recruit candidates who know how to stick to a carefully honed message, especially in a Twitter-driven era. “We need candidates who are capable of articulating their policy positions without alienating massive voting blocs,” said Kevin McLaughlin.......... Loosely translated as: We need to learn how to lie more effectively without turning voters against the party. Romney basically lost because he represented the interest of the rich and he didn't have a stable platform to stand on. He kept flip flopping on issues so people couldn't trust him.
on November 17,2012 | 07:34AM
hawaiikone wrote:
It's always a far easier sell to tell voters what they want to hear as it is to tell them what they need to hear.
on November 17,2012 | 09:38AM
Paulh808 wrote:
This article is so predictable from left leaning news sources, when you compare it to what happened in the 2010 election, when republicans made huge gains at all levels of government around the country (except Hawaii, since we have perfect government here). The cycle will come around because if the liberal/socialist dem party think that 51% of the vote (I also wonder how much voter fraud and cheating gets a failure reelected) is a mandate then they will be very surprised in the next election. But the race and class warfare on the left is nauseating, coming from the party with some much baby blood on their hands.
on November 17,2012 | 08:21AM
meatgrinda wrote:
The people don't elect the president anymore, The MEDIA does. When a sittig president has NBC, CBS, and ABC in his pocket, it,s free campaignig 24/7. Even in debates he gets protection. No other candidate would ever get elected with a record like Obamas. EVER. So when the cost of living increases even higher after "4 MORE YEARS" the MSM is at fault as well as Obama.
on November 17,2012 | 09:38AM
Poipounder808 wrote:
The people have spoken, get over it. Become part of the solution or stay part of the problem.
on November 17,2012 | 11:39AM
Lanikaula wrote:
That's telling it like it should have been said awhile ago.
on November 17,2012 | 12:56PM
Bdpapa wrote:
True, lets get this thing moving in a positive direction.
on November 17,2012 | 01:02PM
kuroiwaj wrote:
The GOP has been and is current with the times in America. Its platform positions continue to be supported by a majority of Americans. Many candidates fear their individual message and fail in elections. The GOP lost the presidency, but have continued to win the individual states, which truly is the United States. 30 Republican governors and more State legislatures are controlled by the GOP and continue to lead America. The grassroots and the American citizen prefer the GOP positions, therefore the GOP must maintain its Conservative positions. It is the winning position. The GOP must develop and organize its ground game and as that is accomplished, the GOP will win 35 States in the 2014 elections and take control of the U.S. Senate.
on November 17,2012 | 01:17PM
kainalu wrote:
I would recommend a recent PBS release, "America by the Numbers" about the changing demographics of the United States. Whereas 50-years ago the voting-public consisted primarily elder white males, today's voter-block includes the voices of women, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, the LBGT community, and our youth.
on November 17,2012 | 01:32PM
kuroiwaj wrote:
Kainalu, it's the democrat party's position with demographics to isolate us Americans into separate groups and turn each group against each other. I believe in America as my friends did in Vietnam. Johnny Green, an American of African ancestry from Luisiana, explaining to all of us that in combat we are all the same, "We all bleed red," we are all Americans.
on November 17,2012 | 02:14PM
Pacej001 wrote:
You've just hit on the key to our survival. Unity, equity, assimilation, one culture. Has to happen or we're done, becoming no better than a third world country in which tribal groups, pitted against one another, fight over an ever decreasing resource. This is what the diversity mongers have brought us. It's a divisive, destructive political strategy based on envy and hate. Rather than bringing up groups that have been kept down in the past, it will bring us all down.
on November 17,2012 | 03:06PM
tinapa wrote:
Common folks, quit whistling past the graveyard. Obama won on values and not simply on demographics. To further justiify or quantify the reasons why Romney lost is all "water under the bridge". Main reason why he lost was he lacked core values. Despite their drubbing defeat, they continue to coalesce around an agenda that continue to demean and belittle the average workers and simply rejecting realities. They need to re-evaluate their position on issues if they want want to be competitive in national election.
on November 17,2012 | 05:36PM
false wrote:

Well said. But they won't listen.

on November 17,2012 | 06:24PM
hawaiikone wrote:
tinapa and false, Considering that republicans comprise nearly half of the opinion, denigrating them isn't beneficial to moving your agenda forward. Demonstrating some consideration for their views would be taking the high road, rather than taking pot shots at their shortcomings, which only elicits like responses. Like it or not, without mutual cooperation very little will get done.
on November 17,2012 | 07:26PM
false wrote:

Review the comments of the various Republicans above. See how few of them suggest ANY openness to self-criticism of the Republican positions. I see ONE comment which admits the GOP might have won if the GOP "a more middle of the road candidate" they would have won. But even that acknowledgment is slightly off. Romney's problem was not simply that he was seen as "too extreme." It was also that nobody trusted him when he said what he stood for. It was a REPUBLICAN JOKE which begins, "A liberal, a conservative and a moderate walk into a bar...."

As you review each comment, notice how many of them are clinging tight to an ideological and unbalanced explanation for why Obama won. It is not an accident they don't want to let go of those false beliefs. They comfort them and prevent them from facing reality:

"Obama was the obstructor" : You guys really don't want to let go of that one, do you? The reality is, Obama is a centrist by nature. You guys think he's some sort of "Euro-socialist." That is nonsense. Here's a thought experiment worth constructing. How would we develop an objective means for determining how "left" or "right" a policy is? Against HISTORICAL positions held by elected officials in the United States. And against positions currently held by political figures in advanced industrial countries?

On what issues would you argue Obama is "left of center" from other Democratic presidents or major senate leaders over the past 75 years? How are Obama's positions "left of center" when compared with those of political leaders in the other major OECD countries?

Obama often takes Republican ideas, back when there was a meaningful "moderate" Republican policy apparatus, and uses them as the basis for his proposals in the hope he can get Republicans to recognize and accept their own ideas as as worthy of support.

on November 18,2012 | 10:40AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Go back, Read the comments. Who started it? Not a republican. Haugen and taisi started the insults. Only then did we respond. History shows this nation moves forward conservatively, which is appropriate. The core of the republican party is conservative, and despite fringe comments by both sides, will return to power.
on November 19,2012 | 05:28AM
false wrote:

To what extent have Republicans been the "obstructors"? Is there an objective standard for assessing this? Maybe you are prepared to admit Republicans have used the filibuster far more times than it has been used in the past? To the point where every significant bill needs 60% support to pass, instead of the traditional majority? Isn't that good evidence of Republican "obstructionism"? Add to that Mitch McConnell's open statement that their number one priority was to deny Obama a second term, a statement which I do not see many Republicans denouncing.

Perhaps you see the GOP "obstructionism" as an essential, even heroic response to the challenges facing the country. That doesn't make it less "obstructionist."

on November 18,2012 | 10:46AM
false wrote:

I disagree Republicans "comprise nearly half the opinion." The number of people who self-identify as Republican is significantly less than that. And in Hawaii, my area of activity, the Republicans show even less support. I think Democrats have to compete for the "hearts and minds" of the voters. But I do not think that is accomplished by compromising further with the ideological constituencies within the GOP alliance. I think it is done by winning over those voters to a new way of thinking.

And you guys on this site are overwhelmingly too attached to your ideological identities. That's why you come online, to rant as though you are in your neighborhood bar, or perhaps the bar at the Elks Club, to skirmish with the "punks" who aren't "American" enough in your view and to win approval from your likeminded buddies. Not only it obvious today, as you are lamenting the election loss, but go back and read through the comments over the past year. Your guys come here to "make big buddy," not to talk at any depth, or with any subtlety, about the real problems we face. There are exceptions, but they are so rare.

Here's some sincere advice for helping rebuild the Republican Party, but you won't like it: Stop watching Fox News. Seriously. It keeps you guys stoned and confused, unable to see clearly, unable to talk with anyone who is not also stoned. Sober up and come back and we can talk.

on November 18,2012 | 10:49AM
hawaiikone wrote:
You sure are opinionated. Don't you see that either side can say exactly the same thing you just did about the other? While you attempt to pigeionhole the typical republican as an elks clubber, equal nonsense paints you as a starbuck's ranter. I truly don't expect any philosophical adjustments from either position happening from the back and forth on forums. Only when face to face does the potential for understanding begin, as the keyboard warrior attitude disappears.
on November 19,2012 | 05:39AM
hawaiikone wrote:
False. Another truth. Until it isn't "them" anymore, but "us" again, we ain't going anywhere...
on November 19,2012 | 05:42AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Why is it that when democrats vote against a republican measure the term "obstructionist" cannot be applied? Why would you, as a democrat, support something you were opposed to? Applying the term is only appropriate when it's done in both directions. as the minority, the filibuster is about the only tool left to prevent legislation from easy approval.
on November 19,2012 | 10:17AM
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