Washington (CNN) – Days after President Barack Obama is sworn-in for a second term, Republican leaders from across the country will assemble in the southern city where Obama accepted his party’s presidential nomination in September to strategize a path forward for the GOP in a nation experiencing major demographic shifts.
It will be a three-day discussion focused primarily on how to grow the Republican Party by convincing black, Hispanic and Asian voters that the GOP better represents their values than the Democratic Party, according to a party official involved in the planning of the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The argument, certainly in the near term, will be tough sell for the GOP, given the unyielding positions and controversial comments from some conservative lawmakers and opinion leaders on the issue of illegal immigration and Democrats’ deep ties to the black community. The CNN Exit Poll from the 2012 presidential election showed that Obama won 93% of the black vote, 71% of the Hispanic vote and 73% of the Asian vote.
“The big takeaway that will be discussed during the week and championed by Priebus is that the party needs more voters and needs to do a better job of reaching out to minority communities and not just six months before the election,” said the Republican official.
Priebus is RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, a 40-year-old lawyer from Wisconsin, who, until two years ago, was relatively unknown outside of the small, clubby world of the committee, an organization that has only 168 members. In January 2011, Priebus emerged from a pack of similarly ambitious Republicans, including his former political ally and then-Chairman Michael Steele, for the right to lead the national party. He inherited more than $20 million of debt after the 2010 midterm elections and a depressed RNC donor base that was being courted by White House hopefuls and congressional Republicans.
Priebus eventually pulled the RNC out of the red and handed Mitt Romney a relatively healthy national party operation when the former Massachusetts governor became the Republican presidential nominee. Paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission shows that the RNC ended 2012 with about $3.3 million in the bank and no debt.
With the White House in Democratic hands and Capitol Hill Republicans focused on legislative fights with Obama, the task to grow the GOP, for now, rests primarily on his shoulders. He is expected to win a second term as national chairman as he faces only token opposition from a Maine Republican at the party’s meeting in North Carolina. Republicans won the state in November, the only bright spot in crushing November defeats where Obama easily defeated Romney, Republicans lost ground in the House and failed to regain control of the Senate.
The theme of the RNC meeting is “Renew, Grow, Win,” a tacit admission that the party has some serious political reckoning to deal with in the coming months, especially with the fast-growing Hispanic population.
“The ideas and the principles of the party are sound,” said the GOP source. “But the way they need to be communicated needs to be updated to become more relatable and relevant.”
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The source added that in his speech next week to fellow Republicans, Priebus will offer a “very optimistic and bold agenda,” but was careful not to say much more beyond the overall theme of trying to broaden the party’s appeal.
After the election, Priebus pledged to do a top-to-bottom review of the party, named it the “Growth and Opportunity Effort” and appointed five Republicans to lead the project.
While minority outreach and recruitment will serve as a main theme of the Charlotte meeting, Priebus is also expected to emphasize a need to update the party’s digital operations. The Obama campaign’s emphasis on developing and utilizing cutting edge technology and fusing it with traditional get-out-the vote methods was widely praised and considered key to the president winning a second term.
Representatives from companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter are expected to attend the meeting, said the source, as will Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, one of many Republicans said to be eyeing a run for president in 2016. Jindal will speak at a dinner on Thursday.
“Simply put, we cannot win if we continue to fight just over battleground states,” said the source, referring to the narrow mathematical paths to victory Romney had in the election. Large states such as California, New York and Pennsylvania are considered Democratic strongholds, and besides North Carolina, Romney failed to win any of the so-called swing states that neither party has a lock on, such as Colorado and Nevada, two states with growing Hispanic populations.