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LAMBRO: GOP’s ‘wake-up call’

Appealing to a broader base is key to 2016

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Republican National Committee unveiled a 98-page blueprint Monday to rebuild the GOP, after months of focus groups and data analysis to find out why the party lost last year's presidential election. Sadly, what they found wasn't any great discovery.

They lost because they utterly failed to reach out to our nation's largest minorities, including Hispanics, blacks and Asian Americans, or enough jobless and underemployed people, who were hurt by the relentlessly anemic Obama economy.

More than half of all college graduates could not find jobs last year that were commensurate with their educational levels and skills, but President Obama still drew strong support from the youth vote.

On the stump, Mitt Romney delivered a strong indictment of Mr. Obama's economic failings, but his campaign didn't effectively deliver his message in the half-dozen battleground states that decided the election. His television ads, with few exceptions, were underwhelming.

"Our message was weak, our ground game was insufficient, we weren't inclusive, we were behind in both data and digital, and our primary and debate process needed improvement," said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who unveiled the report.

The blueprint sent out to the party's national leadership laid out a detailed, multistep road map to reshape the GOP's lengthy nominating process and its positions on some of the most divisive issues facing the country.

The document's most controversial proposal was on the thorny political issue of immigration. "We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our party's appeal will continue to shrink," the RNC report says.

After a decade of warfare over illegal immigration, some of the GOP's most popular conservative leaders -- from Newt Gingrich to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida -- have joined in an effort to craft needed reforms. Mr. Gingrich called the report's recommendations "historic" and the "first big step toward [a] GOP majority."

Mr. Priebus plans to send a dramatic signal to the nation's electorate in the coming weeks and months that the GOP got the "wake-up call" in November. His ambitious political offensive includes a $10 million national campaign to send hundreds of GOP officials into Hispanic, black and Asian communities across the country this summer.

Calling for a new tone of "tolerance and respect" in the debate over immigration reform, the RNC is creating new "senior level advisory councils" that will focus its outreach efforts on minority voters. "Swearing-in citizenship teams" will be sent to swearing-in ceremonies to connect with new voters.

"We need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case. We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too," the report says.

One of the RNC's key nominating reforms would shorten the presidential primary process and reduce the seemingly endless number of TV debates.

It also suggests introducing a "regional primary system," following early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, that would end by mid-May, and moving the convention to June or July -- giving its presidential nominee and the national party more time to build their ground campaign.

"I would limit the [primary] debates to a reasonable amount ... maybe seven or eight, but not 23," Mr. Priebus said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "It's ridiculous."

There are a few discordant notes in this report when it wanders into economic terrain that sounds like it was written by Mr. Obama's advisers.

"We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years," the report says.

The Obama economy is beset by countless ailments -- excessive corporate tax rates, declining venture capital for start-up businesses, overregulation and anti-export trade expansion policies. But CEO salaries are not among them.

As for corporate welfare, the tax code is drenched in it and that's one of the chief targets of the House GOP's tax-reform efforts. How about blowing the whistle on how the Obama White House has dragged its feet on that one?

There are a lot of common-sense political initiatives in the GOP's road map to 2016, but speeding up the party's nominating process is already stirring up fears of political conspiracies and backroom takeover plots.

Many in the party's base, especially among its Tea Party activists and the growing libertarian bloc, led by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, fear any acceleration in the party primary process will favor the party's establishment choice over an insurgent candidacy.

Deep anti-establishment divisions were self-evident at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference here when Mr. Paul declared, "The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered. I don't think we need to name any names here, do we?"

Yet, in the end, the GOP candidate who emerges as the front-runner in the 2016 presidential race must reach out to a far broader electorate than Mr. Romney did in 2012 if the party hopes to win back the White House.

The Democrats proved last year that fear-mongering on Medicare and Social Security, political demagoguery and class warfare still work in a deeply polarized political era.

Someone always comes along who finds a way to break through the political smoke screen and summon the nation to a higher standard and a more prosperous future. In 2012, a narrow majority of Americans were willing to settle for a weakening economy and high unemployment, or what Democrats call "the new normal."

Voters likely will be fed up with the Democrats, though, if the next four years are not much better than the past four and become known as "the lost decade." If that proves to be the case, they will be ready for a presidential candidate who offers the country a new beginning.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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