March 18th, 2013
08:35 AM ET
10 years 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. Cheney's Dick

    The GOP is dead in the water. An entire generation that should have been there to replace the old, white dying members has been forever turned away by the hatred and bigotry they represent. Not to mention, the GOP led war in Iraq that killed and maimed more Americans than the 19 Saudis on 11 Sept. They represent being on the wrong side of history each and every time. STick in the fork, they are DONE!

    March 18, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  2. Steve

    Sadly, the GOP of today does not hold the values they once did. I am a life long Democrat, but could at least respect the GOP of old. In today's GOP, there isn't even logical thought. Their platform has been to act like elementary school children, calling people names, lying, and being complete bigots. Just remember, when you alienate homosexuals, women and minorities, there aren't many votes left out there. The GOP needs to stop kowtowing to Grover Norquist and large corporations and start governing for the people that put them into office. More so, they need to get over this idea that even though they lost the election, Democrats should yield to the GOP ideals.

    March 18, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  3. Rudy NYC


    It appears there's plenty of liberal dem advice for running the GOP...sure wish they'd use that advice on their own's big spender clueless run by nincompoops
    Stop listening to hyper spin and look at the facts It was during the Bush administration that the number of federal workers nearly doubled. Doing so kept unemployment low and effectively masked the fact that 8 million manufacturing jobs had left the country during the same time period.

    March 18, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  4. jon

    you can't change who or what you are
    Republicans don't like working class people Asian African American and Latinos

    March 18, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  5. J

    I think a lot of young people support fiscal conservatism. But where the GOP loses everyone is with their archaic social conservatism.

    March 18, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  6. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it's a freaking duck. The republican image has and will always be perceived as the party for the rich and for the "stuffy old men." GOP, enjoy your time in extinction.

    March 18, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  7. bxgrrl

    Only too old and too white? That's it? Nothing about too mean-spirited, too bigoted, too right-wing reactionary, too stuck-in-the-19th-century?

    March 18, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  8. Michael

    Change the tone but don't change the policy? How long can you hate members of our family ( gay, women, immigrants, and poor) and expect to be elected? Just because you say you care sounds as hollow as a commercial telling me I will be sexy if I buy your beer. Really ?

    March 18, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  9. Makomeone

    Nothing said about the total insanity and clown dance that grips their stupid group of conservative talking heads. What a joke my party has become.. Stop the insanity, stop the idiots from taking first stage. You brought in Palin to speak.. enough said. The moron, single handed did more damage to the party than any of the other clowns including Bachman, the birthers, the more than 30 times they voted to repeal obamacare, the 8% approval rating.. Come on, get it once and for all, its the republican politicians that are screwing up the republican party, but no one is going to vote themselves out of office. The damage will continue.. They didn't invite the republican with 70% approval, but they did invite Palin...

    March 18, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  10. amarjeet

    \First most important change in GOP is change from white blood and they embrace minorities with permanent future of freedom, freedom from bias, freedom from isolation, absolving you and I word by considering all American citizens as citizens of America not as 47% or 53%. GOP must take over complete makeover for new perception, concepts and respect all with access to opportunity with free or subsidized support for education, healthcare and social security irrespective of age, ability, disability that may not be physically but with one each senses crumbling one by one and ultimately landing in peaceful end of life without abandoning any human being in America. Loyalty to country first, family later and self-last. Anyone not accepting this democratic principle must be ready to loose right of citizenship. If job ends, medical insurance must continue with a fraction of subscription till he/she gets a job. Ending medical and financial support at the end of job is a national & social failure to look after national human assets which ultimately lead to degeneration. It is republican inner mind that needs to be opened up first to embrace all Americans. Cheap & selfish arguments must be avoided on public platform or mass media and magnificent attitude & looks take over.

    March 18, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  11. Kiki

    IThe gop doesn't have a message problem; they have a position problem. They can change their message over and over it won't matter if they keep the same position. More tax cut, cut jobs and programs, make it harder for people to vote, anti-immigrants, less regulations and the list goes on, obviously won't make a difference.

    March 18, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  12. Sniffit

    "Republicans want to end perception as 'stuffy old men'"

    There is but one solution: Stop thinking and behaving like them.

    Unfortunately for the GOP/Teatrolls (and for us), they will do no such thing. They think they can change the perception part without changing all the rest. "It's the messaging, not the message." Please proceed, GOPers/Teatrolls, please proceed.

    March 18, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  13. Matt

    Are racist comments ever OK? I would argue that they are not....but here on the headline of a national media outlet there is a racist headline.....don't agree??? Insert any other nationality in the place of white, too Asian, too Mexican, too Black.....and the world would explode, but the racist comment is OK if it is mentioning white??? That is a double standard, SHAME on you CNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 18, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  14. 4JULY1776

    I find it astonishing that so many young people voted for Obama and "roll their eyes" at the Republican party.

    I wonder if these young people have figured out yet.....that the $1 trillion-a-year deficits Obama and the Dems are racking up with massive welfare & food stamp handouts......are debts that these same young people are going to be forced to repay throughout their working lives.

    Oh, and next year in 2014 when "ObamaCare" takes effect.....they will have to pay even more.

    Maybe they should start rolling their eyes at the Dems and their promises of endless freebies.

    March 18, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  15. dialogos68

    Look at the cluel libs on here repeating what they were taught from the MSM at the likes of MSNBC and CNN. If one had no clue, one would think the GOP is dead. In reality, the GOP is transforming from the party of old white people, to the party of freedom and civil-liberties.

    Special interests have taken over our government and are bankrupting our nation. The old neo-con republicans are siding with the clueless liberals and the MSM in covering up the corruption.

    With a new spiritual leader in Rand Paul, the tea Party is more popular than ever.One major reason! Obama and Holder NEVER prosecuted any bankers after they caused the 2008 meltdown! The big banks are the largest financial contributors to Obama, Romney, Bush, Clinton, The democrats and republicans. Both parties are two heads on the same monster.

    March 18, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
1 2 3 4