[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/29/art.mcconnell1.gi.jpg caption=" McConnell painted a dismal picture of the state of his party."]
(CNN) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell painted a downright dismal view of the state of his party Thursday afternoon, telling Republican National Committee members the GOP is in grave danger of being marginalized to a regional party.
"We’re all concerned about the fact that the very wealthy and the very poor, the most and least educated, and a majority of minority voters, seem to have more or less stopped paying attention to us," the Kentucky Republican said on the second day of the four-day gathering.
"And we should be concerned that, as a result of all this, the Republican Party seems to be slipping into a position of being more of a regional party than a national one.
"In politics there's a name for a regional party, it's called a minority party," said McConnell.
The sobering remarks came one day before the 168 members of the RNC are set to elect a chairman tasked with steering the party out of its beleaguered status, and win back some of the voting blocs virtually abandoned the party last November, including minority and younger voters.
"My concern is that unless we do something to adapt, our status as a minority party may become too pronounced for an easy recovery," McConnell also said.
McConnell also laid some blame at the feet of former President Bush, whom he described a "man of principle," but one who did "not win any popularity contests."
"History shows that unpopular presidents are usually a drag on everybody else who wears their political label," he said. "It happened with Truman. It happened with Johnson. It happened with Nixon. It happened with Clinton in ‘94. And it happened in ‘06 and ‘08 with President Bush."
He said particular effort needs to be applied to attracting African American and Hispanic voters. Black voters have historically voted heavily Democratic, while Hispanic voters were significantly more Democratic than they had been in previous presidential elections.
"Too often we’ve let others define us," McConnell said. "And the image they’ve painted isn’t very pretty. Ask most people what Republicans think about immigrants, and they’ll say we fear them. Ask most people what we think about the environment, and they’ll say we don’t care about it. Ask most people what we think about the family, and they’ll tell you we don’t — until about a month before Election Day."
But McConnell addressed a a group deeply divided on where the Party should head in the next four years, a tension that has played out in the unexpectedly cut-throat race for the party's chairmanship.
The Senate Minority Leader, who faced an unexpectedly competitive race last year to retain his seat, told the Republican gathering it's not too late for the party to rebuild itself. But he warned the GOP cannot change its fundamental values in the course of trying to appeal to a wider cross-section of the country.
"You don’t get them back by pretending to be something else," he said. “And you certainly don’t gain voters by running away from the ones that are most loyal. But it’s clear our message isn’t getting out to nearly as many people as it should."
"...We should avoid the false choice of being a party of moderates or conservatives," he said. "America is diverse. The two major parties should be too. But this doesn’t mean turning our backs on commonsense conservatism, or tailoring our positions to suit particular groups. Our principles are universal. They apply to everyone."