(CNN) – A driving force behind the new effort to renew the GOP's image denied Monday that the group is looking to avoid addressing social issues that excite the conservative base but can be off-putting for moderate and independent voters.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia was joined at the group's town hall style kick off event Saturday by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
"During your meeting over the weekend, you didn't talk at all about abortion, gay marriage or immigration," American Morning's John Roberts said to Cantor Monday. "Those are three big Republican social issues. . . . Why were those issues left off the table?"
"The National Council for a New America is meant to be a wide-open policy debate," the Virginia Republican responded. "There is no exclusion about what we'll talk about, who can be involved.
"...The traditional family values are a part of everything we do. The value system that we hold raising our children, educating our children, delivering health care –these issues permeate everything, so there is absolutely no intention to veer away from discussion of any of that."
Less than a week after Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter defected from the GOP to help save his 2010 re-election prospects, Cantor conceded that his party is struggling in parts of the country.
"In the Northeast, in New England, we've certainly taken our licks," Cantor told Roberts. "There's no question that the Republican Party needs to be more inclusive at this point. We shouldn't be an exclusive small bunch satisfied with the minority."
The GOP's rebranding effort will focus on rallying the public around "the principles that we know have made this country great – liberty, opportunity, and the devotion to the individual and free markets."
Listen: CNN Radio on the new push to revitalize the Republican Party