- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hoping to soften the party’s rough edges, the Republican National Committee announced a new ad campaign Thursday featuring a former prostitute and other unlikely GOP voters explaining why they embrace conservative principles.

The party said the campaign is meant to attract new recruits to its Republican Leadership Initiative organizing program, as it continues its multiyear effort to try to make inroads with minority and female voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

One ad features a woman named Vallerie Guillory, a community worker from Sarasota, Florida, who talks about how she ran away from home around the age of 11 and fell into a world of drugs and prostitution.

“With the help of so many people in the Republican Party, I have learned to turn my circumstances around and create my second chance, and, at the same time, help other people create their second chances so that they can have productive lives,” she said.

Other ads feature a Latino college graduate from Colorado, a firefighter from the Bronx, a mother of an autistic child from Florida and the son of Haitian immigrants from Queens.

“Our effort to win the White House is fueled by the diverse and unique personal stories that motivate each and every individual to get involved in the political process,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

The RNC said the $300,000 campaign would include television ads played during next week’s GOP debate in South Carolina and digital ads targeting potential recruits for the party’s RLI program.

Since the 2012 presidential election, when President Obama won a second term with the help of huge margins among Hispanic and black voters, the GOP has worked hard to reverse those trend lines.

The RNC’s 2012 post-mortem report said the party needed to do a better job appealing to minority voters. To that end, Mr. Priebus announced a $10 million initiative to engage minority communities, and the party has also made a concerted effort to encourage more female and minority Republican candidates to run for state and local offices.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said the RNC deserves plaudits for actively working to dispel the public narrative that the GOP is the party of old white men, but the results this year are going to depend on who Republicans choose as their presidential nominee.

“They’re trying the best they can, but at the same time there’s only so much they can do,” he said. “The problem is political parties don’t have the power they used to … a lot of this work is up to the GOP presidential nominee.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee who has made many visits to inner cities around the country, also announced this week that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will deliver the GOP response to Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address next week.

Ms. Haley, a rising GOP star and the daughter of immigrants from India, will be the third straight woman to give the party’s official response to the president, following Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in 2014 and Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa in 2015.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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