Party chairman begins fight to expand GOP

 Republicans_Broa.jpgMINORITY OUTREACH PLAN ANNOUNCED–Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus gestures while speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, March 18. The RNC formally endorsed immigration reform on Monday and outlined plans for a $10 million outreach to minority groups _ gay voters among them _ as part of a strategy to make the GOP more “welcoming and inclusive” for voters who overwhelmingly supported Democrats in 2012. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)


by  Barrington M. Salmon

The Washington Informer  

(NNPA)–Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has in his possession, a report that he believes will change the fluctuating fortunes of the GOP.

On Monday, March 18, he shared some of the findings of a months-long study called The Growth and Opportunity Project which he said will be the blueprint that will make the Grand Old Party [GOP] a much more attractive place for people of color.

In an exclusive interview with The Washington Informer, he said the release of the 60-page report during a press conference at the Capitol Hill Press Club in Southeast, will signal an all-out push by the GOP to extend its grassroots reach among minorities while building an infrastructure to beat the Democrats at their own game.

The project reflects Priebus’ concerns about the state of the GOP and a desire to bring increasing numbers of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, young people and women under the party’s umbrella. The report is said to contain about 100 recommendations covering a range of issues, including demographic participation and related concerns and developing a friendlier debate calendar.

“We’re in a world of permanent politics and we have a lot of work to build relations in the African- American community,” said Priebus during a March 17 interview. “For generations, it was the Republican Party that was the home for the majority of African Americans,” he said. “Our party’s leaders – from Lincoln to Eisenhower – have been the true champions of civil rights. We must earn back that place. I think we have to earn their trust.”

“This is the party that should be the natural home for African Americans,” he asserted. “It won’t happen overnight, but hopefully our actions will match our resolve. We have to grow our party and welcome them in a way that we haven’t before. We can go to people who are moderates or those to the right of us.”

Priebus, 40, said the Republican National Committee [RNC] will immediately begin hiring hundreds of new outreach employees, including political directors, communications experts and strategists, and community and state leaders who’ll be responsible for reaching out to the voting blocs the GOP seeks to attract and retain: Hispanics, Asians and African Americans.

“I’m not interested in hiring two people down the hall. I want to hire hundreds and hundreds and have them out in the community,” he said.

In addition, the chairman said, the effort will update its marketing and communications model, while stepping up marketing campaigns on college campuses, including historically black colleges and universities.

Of equal concern to Priebus was the poor showing of his party in 2012. The report offers reasons why Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was trounced by President Barack Obama and it offers a prescription to make the GOP a formidable foe on the national stage.

“We have to do everything we can to compete with the Obama Machine,” Priebus said during an earlier interview. “I believe that the other side has created a community-based, granular campaign coast-to-coast. We have to improve our chances in 2014. We didn’t just get here overnight.”

On Face the Nation Sunday morning, Priebus said it’s essential that the GOP inject itself into communities nationwide. At the same time, the party has to change the way it presents and sells itself and allow people to see the true face of the party. All too often, he said, Democrats do a much better job connecting with voters on issues that resonate with them. He elaborated on that point during the exclusive interview.

“We must communicate a more positive, broader message that voters can connect with emotionally,” he said. “In order to start winning presidential elections, I think we have to start winning over people’s hearts,” Priebus said. “It’s an emotional vote and it’s a cultural vote. I think at times we divorce ourselves from the culture. We shouldn’t.”

“I think we have to do a better job relating issues to people’s lives. When you’re talking about the debt, for example, it’s not just a matter of mathematics. It’s what happens in your life,” Priebus said. “We have to relate things in people’s lives and we have to win the math war. We’re going to have to learn how to win the heart war and that’s what is plaguing our party in presidential elections.”

The chairman acknowledged that Republicans have been known to execute “get out the vote efforts four months before an election”, while Democrats can draw on the long-term relationships they’ve cultivated over time in local communities to carry them to victory.

“It’s a granular approach to what we need to be doing as a party,” he said. “We must organize voter registration, go to swearing-in ceremonies and always be promoting others to help us as well. This is multifaceted. And again, you’ve never seen this level of commitment from the RNC. It’s a huge deal.”

Priebus said it makes sense to be operating at the grassroots level if only to avoid some of the problems that plagued Romney and other Republican candidates like Missouri’s Todd Akin.

“If you’re not interacting with people and there isn’t a level of comfort or familiarity, then … the caricature becomes true if you’re not there.”

Republicans are still feeling the sting because of the recent presidential election loss. Victory seemed assured due to an anemic economy, high unemployment figures, a vulnerable incumbent and historic Republican gains in 2010. But the victory that Fox News commentators and GOP analysts predicted melted away fairly early on the evening of Nov. 6.

To that end, Priebus said two proposals the RNC plans to implement are to shorten the primary process and move up the convention.

“Our candidates are killing each other because our primary process is way too long,” he said, while the other side is consolidating its position “by spending potentially hundreds of millions of dollars on data, technology, voter outreach … actually getting the job done.”

Party leaders will look at the political calendar, consider reducing the debate calendar and putting in mechanisms that ensure that the GOP nominee goes into the general election much stronger and with more time and a better chance to attempt to succeed in the general elections.

Priebus promised to continue working until the goals identified by the report and party members are attained.

“We want to be big and bold,” he said. “Our legacy will be that as the RNC chairman, I turned talk into action and made lasting changes to people and the party. This is not a short-term view, this is not a short-term job. I promise you I don’t have a short view on this. I don’t believe that ther
e’s some magic pixie dust that’s going to change everything overnight.

“But I do believe that if we work hard, tell our story, get community-based, finance something that’s big and bold, that we can move the numbers in a significant way for us in the future. And it’s not just to move the numbers – it’s the right thing to do.”



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