(CNN) - “We must stop being the stupid party.” “We must stop looking backward.” “We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal held little back with his sharp words to Republicans Thursday evening, urging his own party to rethink their arguments against Democrats and appeals to voters in his remarks to party members attending the Republican National Committee’s Winter Meeting.
“We seem to have an obsession with government bookkeeping,” he told party members. “We as Republicans have to accept that government number crunching – even conservative number crunching – is not the answer to our nation’s problems.”
Instead of being the “party of austerity,” Jindal said, Republicans must “boldly show what the future can look like with the free-market policies that we believe in.”
“We must compete for every single vote: the 47 percent and the 53 percent and any other combination of numbers that adds up to 100 percent,” he said, notably invoking comments 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made at a closed door fundraiser about a bloc of voters who would not consider GOP candidates.
He also spoke out against those and other “completely unhelpful” comments from Romney in a November interview with CNN. In that interview, he signaled one of the seven points for the Republican Party’s future which he laid out Thursday: “The first step in getting the voters to like you is to demonstrate that you like them,” he explained Thursday.
Republicans “must reject the notion that demography is destiny, the pathetic and simplistic notion that skin pigmentation dictates voter behavior. We must treat all people as individuals rather than as members of special interest groups,” he said.
The Louisianan’s remarks further positioned himself as a forward-looking voice among the Republicans thought to have their eye on a White House bid in 2016. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has directed a five-member panel known as the "Growth and Opportunity Project" to identify winning political strategies for the future, particularly in the area of minority outreach.
Jindal’s remarks were laced with criticism of and laugh lines at the expense of Democrats, such as “Which of you wants to sign up to help manage the slow decline of the United States of America? I sure don’t. That’s what we have Democrats for.”
He blasted the economic stimulus programs of President Barack Obama’s administration, invoking Solyndra when he said: “You can’t hire enough government workers or give enough taxpayer money to your friends who own green energy companies to create prosperity.”
But he was also distinctly blunt with his appraisal of the GOP.
Republicans have not only lost elections, he said, but lost issue arguments with Democrats.
“At present we have one party that wants to be in charge of the federal government so they can expand it, and one party that wants to be in charge of the federal government so they can get it under control,” he said, referring first to Democrats and then Republicans. “It’s a terrible debate, it’s a debate fought entirely on our opponents’ terms.”
Jindal allowed that his thoughts “may challenge your assumptions.”
“We must shift the eye line and the ambition of our conservative movement away from managing government and toward the mission of growth,” he said.
Republicans must move, he said, beyond a notion of “if we can just put together a spreadsheet and a power point and a TV ad, all will be well.”
Jindal was elected last year to lead the Republican Governor’s Association.
Priebus will be up for re-election as RNC chairman on Friday.
“I don’t think you should use that whole ORCA thing for your election tomorrow,” Jindal joked, referring to the Romney campaign voter turnout technology which was reportedly plagued with glitches on Election Day.
- CNN Political Director Mark Preston contributed to this report