March 18th, 2013
08:35 AM ET
1 year ago

Republicans want to end perception as 'stuffy old men'

Washington (CNN) – The beleaguered Republican Party put into writing Monday what many of its top strategists and leaders have been saying since last year's election losses: The GOP is too old, too white, and too insular to win national contests.

In a months-in-the-making report – which tops out at 100 pages and includes hundreds of recommended fixes - the Republican National Committee acknowledges its messaging problems, identifies structural setbacks to the primary calendar and spells out how to target specific demographic groups that voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in 2012.

"The report notes the way we communicate our principles isn’t resonating widely enough," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who also happened to be celebrating his birthday, said at the report's release in Washington. "Focus groups described our party as 'narrow minded,' 'out of touch,' and 'Stuffy old men.' I’m only 41, by the way. Today."

"It all goes back to what our moms used to tell us: It's not just what we say; it's how we say it," Priebus continued. "The promise of opportunity will be our message, and a spirit of optimism will infuse everything that we do."

The report was initiated by the RNC soon after last November's vote, which saw Republicans lose the presidency as well as seats in the U.S. House. Mitt Romney, the party's White House hopeful, lost big among Latinos, African-Americans and Asians, a fact that helped spur collective soul searching among the party's leaders.

"Public perception of the Party is at record lows," the report states. "Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us."

Romney won only 27% of Latino voters - a lower percentage than the last two GOP presidential candidates. Many pointed to Romney's hardline stance on immigration, including his endorsement of a policy of "self-deportation," as a reason.

In Monday's report, that policy was specifically shunned as a turnoff for voters who could potentially vote Republican.

"If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence," it states. In one of its few policy recommendations, the report counsels Republicans to "embrace and champion" comprehensive immigration reform.

And in order to attract young voters, the party recommends a "change in tone," particularly on social issues.

"In every session with young voters, social issues were at the forefront of the discussion; many see them as the civil rights issues of our time. We must be a party that is welcoming and inclusive for all voters," it states, adding later that it's imperative that young people not regard the GOP as "totally intolerant of alternative points of view."

"Our policies are sound, but I think that in many ways the way that we communicate can be a real problem," Priebus said at the report's release.

He continued, "Decent people can disagree on issues. I don't agree with my wife on 100% of the issues, but it doesn't mean we don't have a good marriage. I think that we have to be a welcoming party. I think that we have to have a party that says, 'If you want to support our party and you want to walk through that door, I don't need to agree with you on every single issue.'"

"Republican Party is, indeed, a big tent," said Ari Fleischer, a CNN contributor who was one of the report's authors, on Monday. "We need to make sure that's a big tent, and not just rhetoric."

"Take the issue of gay marriage, for example, and gay rights. There is a genuine generational split in the Republican Party on that issue. Many, many young conservatives are for gay rights, are for gay marriage. And we openly talk about that and acknowledge that and we welcome that. That's part of what a big tent should be about," Fleischer said on CNN's "Starting Point."

The party's primary process has also generated problems for Republicans, the report finds, including the months-long primary process that saw candidates ripping each other in front of too many debates.

The number of debates should be cut in half, the report recommends, and the Republican National Convention should be moved earlier in the summer, so that the party's presidential candidate can start using RNC money earlier - the candidate is prevented from using those funds until they are officially nominated at the convention.

Also necessary, according to the report: a more robust digital effort, including the creation of a chief technology and digital officer for the RNC, to compete with Democrats online.

"Digital can simply no longer be an afterthought in our campaigns," the report states. "It has to be embedded in every function and backed up with appropriate staffing and funding."

CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Kevin Liptak and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.


Filed under: Republicans • RNC
soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    The Republican Party is like a distant, super massive star, burning through its' fuel at an incredible rate, waiting to go super nova, which inevitably collapses into a black hole. I think the super nova has already exploded, and it took the form of Pres. Obama's re-election.

    But like a distant star, the light of the event just hasn't reached the Earth yet. Actually, it has. The light just hasn't penetrated the dense fog that's enclosed the right wing. Some Republicans, who stand a little taller than the rest, who can stick their necks out of the fog, have seen the bright flash. They already know that there is only a black hole in their futures.

    What they seem to haven't figured out is that the a super nova collapse to a black hole is inevitable and cannot be stopped. It cannot be averted, or diverted. The only good thing about it is that it leads to the birth of new stars.

    March 18, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  2. ST

    Is there any leader at GOP? I am not eager to give you any advice because you didn't ask for it. May be just a little bit. You have just finished your CPAC the passed weekend. Why didn't you co-ordinate, appoint the right speakers with right messages (excluding the wacko from Alaska)? Focus deeply what led you to the failure, point out what has to be rectified, make sure participants really get it and and the entire party in particular. That was the time when people tuned in and were ready to listen.

    March 18, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  3. jim

    Another day, another bash-the-GOP story on CNN. The irony is that the exciting players for the GOP are not male or white. But that doesn't fit CNN's narrative.

    March 18, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  4. victor

    I'm a former texas republican, I'm 27 years old. the party just thinks its "tone" is what's driving people away and its not.... here most republican voters are old white racist people... who would ever want to be on the same "team" as them... the current republican voter does not like minorities, blames the president for everything (even our drought weather) is a religious nut and claims to be very "churchly" yet is spewing hate about people of color or other religions. I didn't leave the republican party... the republican party left me.

    March 18, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  5. Don Sporns

    "many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country."
    Except that's actually true. GOP is openly against everyone who is not super wealthy, white, Christian, male. That includes young, old, middle class, poor, minorities, women. The party is too old itself, but ironically it is against seniors too.

    Now they are just trying to figure out how to do false marketing and sound like they are not against all these people, while trying to pass policies to hurt everyone but the super wealthy.

    March 18, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  6. Soso

    For starters the Republicans need to ditch the CPAC meeting. It is just too full of spite and meanness to ever be a drawing card for anyone with an ounce of compassion. Most of the groups the GOP want to draw in would never find anything to identify with in a group full of such ugliness.

    March 18, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  7. BigAl

    I was born into a Republican family and as such a great deal of my upbringing was from the right. At 34 I can safely say the following: the GOP is nearing death. Even if the party itself attempts to change their image, there are too many wacko right-winger racists and nutjobs to ever fully escape from the current perception. Good luck changing how people view your party when half your party (or more) doesn't want that perception changed. GOP is dying faily quickly as well. Do you see them having any chance in the next couple of elections? I don't. Bye bye. Party bites the dust because they couldn't evolve.

    March 18, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    the party's White House hopeful, lost among every demographic bloc except white men
    -------------------------------------------------
    Let's translate that for the brain-dead far-right,and not-so-far-right nutjobs on this this thread:
    This means that white women voted overwhelmingly for President Barack Hussein Obama.
    Let's give you all a moment to let THAT sink in before we proceed with...
    The fact that Asians, Latinos (Mexicans, Dominicans, CUBANS, and everything in between), Blacks, poor, middle-class, hollywood, bollywood all went OVERWHELMINGLY for President Barack Hussein Obama.
    Rehugs have a huge problem.
    HUGE. And yet they are all done with their "listening sessions"...
    You can't make these people up.

    March 18, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  9. Oh PLEASE

    Ari Fleischer is a snake in the grass. He'll say anything to look good then pat himself on the back and give himself a bonus afterward. Saying the GOP is a big tent is RHETORIC. They proove it when they run for mid-terms shouting it's all about jobs, then once they gain seat push a ridiculous number of social issue bills and declare they have to stand up to defend DOMA because the POTUS knows it's unconstitutional and won't defend it anymore.

    March 18, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  10. why change now?

    If the republicans would have won the election, there would be NO change to their party demographics and values. NO CHANGE. In fact they would change everything the democrats would want. They should still keep everything they stand for the same. Their loss is not our problem.

    March 18, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  11. walter

    Republicans need to focus on fiscal policy. When even a far left lib like Bill Maher starts whining about high taxes (I loved the shocked look on Maddow's mug when he said it), you know that's where we need to focus.

    March 18, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  12. Al-NY,NY

    Good luck with that...............it ain't gonna happen

    March 18, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  13. us_1776

    GOP, the Middle Ages called.

    They want their ideas back.

    .

    March 18, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  14. ricardo1968

    It really comes down to one thing. Any party, right or left, that refuses to compromise, will scare away the middle. People in the political main stream expect and desire compromise. If you scare away the people in the biggest chunk of the bell curve, all you have left are the fringes.

    March 18, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  15. teacher

    Then quit being stuffy old men. Quit letting the tea party nut jobs like Cruz dominate the Republican air waves. Go back to the party of Eisenhower, Ford, and Reagan. Be a reasonable party again.

    March 18, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  16. Whammybar

    Sorry, you can't lose an election and then announce that because you don't appeal to the majority of the country that you are going to change yourself so that you will win the next one. You are who you are. Self righteous, self serving, better than thou, be like me or your wrong and inferior, war-mongering, blindly patriotic and our religion is the only religion. You won't change that with the flick of a switch. I do like the smaller less intrusive government that the Republicans are always talking about. It's just that they seem to obsessed to get power and control of something that they propose to reduce. Wonder why?

    March 18, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  17. mark

    All I saw at CPAC were the same old tired white people and those who got into this country due to our lopsided immigration policy that favors people from Cuba. If Marco Rubio's parents would have been from any other country except Cuba, they most likely would still be waiting for a green card and Marco would be a foreigner.

    I am a white male, over 50, college educated and fully employed. I saw NOTHING at the CPAC convention that changed my mind on any of the problems facing the GOP. Until they change their hateful rhetoric, I will not vote Republican!

    March 18, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  18. Ancient Texan

    Why are Dems so biased against elderly white people? Now we know who the racists are!

    March 18, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  19. eric stanway

    The Republicans are the party of old white rich men. Simple as that.They consistently vote in favor of that demographic. No amount of "rebranding" is ever going to change that.

    March 18, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  20. Jeebusss

    So they want to change the perception? That will be hard because it is true.

    March 18, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  21. jdean

    No reflection on the fact the R party is the water carrier for corporate Amerika and the 1%. Nice try but they still don't get it.

    March 18, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  22. EPAB

    It's too religious. It's completely controlled by religious fundamentalists who only nominate the most extreme members of the party. Their only hope for future success is to break the stranglehold these people have on the party. Good luck with that.

    March 18, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  23. USAPeasant

    So the GOP wants greater outreach and their grand plan to achieve this is to have LESS primary debates.

    There goes that GOP logic again defying all rationality and common sense.

    So the 2016 GOP primaries are looking like they'll actually be good to watch with a good crop of candidates. The GOP's greatest idea is, give them less exposure. This is the kind of logic that will keep losing elections. Maybe the first step the GOP should take is to fire Reince Priebus.

    March 18, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  24. Odo

    And not a SINGLE mention of the anti-woman policies the GOP are passing in the states at record pace....

    March 18, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  25. Anonymous

    what about the Democrat party being the party of blacks? I believe if 98+% of white people voted for Romney this past Presidential Election the media would have claimed that we are all white people are racist but there is no mention of this phenomenon when it comes to Obama and the percentage of the black vote he received? My first sentence is ridiculous and absurd but a "white/old/republican" could be saying you are discriminating agains me becasue of my ethnicity and age. CNN used to be somewhat unbiased but obviously they have takes a hard lean left.

    March 18, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
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