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. Ray E. (Georgia)

    There is that old saying. NEVER SEND A BOY TO DO A MAN'S JOB. YOU HAVE TO CRAWL BEFORE YOU CAN WALK. ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY. Unfortuntantly there have been some "Infants" elected President ! So how is that working out for you ??

    March 18, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  2. Core republican Values

    By "stuffy old men," do you mean white, ignorant, greedy, bigoted, self-serving, christian "stuffy old men?"

    If so, then you'd be right on it.

    March 18, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  3. v_mag

    If the GOP/TeaParty weren't the party of stuffy old men and stuffy old money, it wouldn't be perceived as such. I think what they need to do is to find more effective ways to lie about themselves, and in that regard, they have lots of assets.

    Remember George Warcriminal Bush? He lied about everything from WMD to Valerie Plame, and he got away with it. Of course, we all know now that he lied his butt off, and that did considerable damage to his party and the nation, but maybe they can find ways to effectively lie about who they are and fool enough people to pull out one more election. After all, people have very short memories.

    The GOP just has to go back to basics, as Nixon taught them. Lie, lie, lie. Deny, deny, deny.

    March 18, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  4. hornetbut

    about time...and while they are doing this ...its about time the democrats got rid of all those old men and women in the senate, they look like a retirement home....

    March 18, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  5. Boo

    This is funny..if the Republicans want to lose the perception of being "stuffy old men" then AT LEAST two thirds of those who hold office SHOULD RESIGN. And as far as guys like Karl Rove – he and other conservative "advisors" should take a nice long walk off a short pier.

    March 18, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  6. The Real Tom Paine

    The solution: prevent anyone but white, propertied males from voting. Never mind the social upheaval, that should appeal to the Delta-Minus intellects in the GOP that they are " following the Constitution" again, and it will give the NRA gun-huggers an excuise to do their Stormtrooper thing they have been dying to try out. Think I'm crazy? Remember the little incident of a woman getting stomped by Rand Paul supporters in 2010, then demanding the woman apologise to them? Its the Buzz Windrip/Shad Ladue solution to the GOP's problems. Unleash the Minutemen!

    March 18, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  7. Larry L

    It's not about "perception" but rather "realty"! Changing perceptions is nothing but marketing tricks unless you eliminate the ideologies of the stuffy old men controlling the Republican Party. How will you change the bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia, and racism which are the core values of the strongest part of the Republican base?

    March 18, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  8. Bugl3t

    Really? What was that comment from the half-governor? Something about lipstick on a pitbull? Perhaps the bard is better: A rose by any other name... Honestly, as long as stuffy, bigoted, misogynist freaked-out white men are running the GOP (and Teatards) those who can determine fact from fiction will consider the GOP as out of touch extremists (for the most part.)

    March 18, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  9. Pete

    It's hard getting away from the "stuffy old men" title when even your republican partys young tea partier reps sound like parrots resighting rants that these ole worn out politicians of long ago kept running with and made it their partys losing songs!!Keep it up republicans because your republican constituents are jumping from your party like rats from a sinking ship and at that rate your party will soon go the way of the dinosaur after midterms,extinction ever hear of that word before because that's where the republican party is now headed like it or not...

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

    The party recommedns a change in tone but no change to the message? GOP will never be on top until they realize just how many people they allienate every time they open their mouths to speak. If you want to lead then you have to be able to lead ALL of the people in this country, not just the ones you deem worthy.

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

    these stuffy old man still thinks we are living in the 60s and the cold war. they still thinks we still have assembly lines with ford and the other big companies. they wants to take away education, unions for the middle class and rebuilding our infrastructures to compete with fast moving countries like china, who is building their economy and armies at alarming speed. all they want to do is shuffle tax cuts to the rich and encourage them to build these countries and their armies and even more powerful than us. who encourages businesses to grow other countries to be more powerful than themselves by using our money to do so. its time americans demand our government to rebuild our country before it wither away, because this is the last thing wall street have on their minds. they want money and if its china they've got to do it, well be it.

    March 18, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  12. srichey321

    They may want to find a way to jettison the fringe elements of the GOP such as the Tea Party. The "angry white man" is becoming representative of an increasing minority.

    March 18, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  13. Puddin

    No matter what the Repub Party does to try and make themselves look good, ater the 2000 election of GWB and the "rubber-stamping" of whatever he wanted and the way they have treated Pres. Obama during his term(s), we all know what is really in their hearts. This country has really gone down hill from their actions. I will never trust them again ever!

    March 18, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  14. sally

    Hispanics rightly sniff out the intolerance of the GOP and young people are turned off by the racist attitudes of many, if not most, of the right wing as well as their intolerance of gays. The young are interested in fairness and the Republican disdain for the poor and 47% are a big turnoff. Average Americans favor a safety net and they want Social Security left alone! Above all, Americans are sick of their stubbornness and stonewalling!!!!!

    March 18, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  15. rs

    Another version of the messenger, not the message delusion. Mr. Fleicsher makes a decent point. but even IF the GOP suddenly shifted its feet on Gay marriage, what about all of the GOP's other bad policies? What about the environment? The GOP wrings its hands on the debt, but they are on course to leave an unlivable planet to the next generation. How about women? Placing a greater emphasis on rapists zygotes over the rights of adult women is simply crazy, and certainly not "pro-life". What about the economy? Giving special breaks to the rich, and attacking the working class doesn't buy voters. The same on Civil Rights, Voters' Rights, Education, Science Research, Medical care and more and more and more.
    The GOP has cornered the market for being on the wrong side of- everything.

    March 18, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  16. rs

    Great Ray- Use the term "BOY" to describe the President.

    March 18, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  17. ellid

    The perception is spot-on accurate. All the fixes in the world won't change this unless and until the Republicans stop pandering to rich, elderly, white, male bigots.

    March 18, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  18. anonoymous

    Funny how the lost of the presidency twice to a afro american has made the gop realize somethings wrong with there message. Once Mr Obama's term is up wonder if they will go back to their old hateful ways?Dont trust their soul searching and more than I trusted their man Romney..

    March 18, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  19. Realist

    Chris Christie is the future of the Republican party, CPAC in the baggage that weighs it down

    March 18, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  20. Yanni

    That is just scratching the surface the GOP/tea party/Conservative problem is deeper than that. How do you fix something flowed to the core. It is a daunting task but God knows in democracy we need a viable opposition party to compare and contrast ideas and we need at list one. The GOP can start by respecting human intelligent and not spreading false, lies and insane things through their preferred media talk radio show and faux news. Stop believing in your own hype and know that the vast majority of American people have rejected your out dated idea and philosophy. Stop fighting the war of the 50s you already lost that. Don't promote insane asylum people as a leader. Please not disparage our democratically elected president to the extent that your contempt for him become an excuse to take a hostage the American economy. Please accept the fact that he is the POTUS for the next four years. Poor and middle class people are American too also women and minority stop pandering to much to the ultra rich. In this DNA age please have faith science knowledge is a gift to solve our problems and make a path for better future. God is not a monopoly only for one group of people many of us believe in God in our own ways please don't force us to live by your faith. etc.

    March 18, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  21. Emkay

    The GOP can start by doing more to distance themselves from the extreme right wing elements within their ranks. When a bigoted comment is made, reject it and confront it. You tolerate it because its politically expedient. Show some backbone and stand for what you really believe in.

    March 18, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  22. lerianis

    Well, we have been pointing that out for years now that the GOP acts like a bunch of rich old white men (which they by and large are) who look at anyone who isn't white with suspicion and barely disguised hatred.

    March 18, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  23. rs

    Not stuffy..... Greedy?

    March 18, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  24. Michael

    It always seems like they keep coming back to "we have to find a way to get our message across better to other groups." The problem is that the electorate *hears* their message and it's FUBAR. They need to move past some delusional fantasy about the "good ol' days" that never existed and get with the 21st century. We don't care about the size of government so much as whether or not it is can be shrunk but if it's not effective at its "new size," it's still a mess. The GOP has lost its relevance not just because of demographics, but because they and their minions are dumber'n a box of rocks.

    March 18, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  25. Boater39

    @RayE: To answer your question... Much better than if a corrupt old rich NittWitt got elected...

    March 18, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
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