The Republican Partys blunt self-assessment of its image calls for more than organizational or logistical changes in how it operates. It calls for some deeper soul-searching by a party perceived as out of touch with the voters.
The candid, 100-page report, Growth and Opportunity Project, described a party viewed in focus groups as narrow-minded, out of touch and dominated by stuffy old men. The study launched after the November presidential elections makes clear, said GOP National Chairman Reince Priebus, that theres no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we werent inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement.
The post-election analysis made 219 recommendations that seem to place the emphasis on logistical changes, reorganization and how the party delivers its message more than the message itself. It urged the party to spend $10 million on an aggressive marketing campaign directed at women, minorities and gays, all groups who supported President Obama over GOP nominee Mitt Romney in November.
Among the recommendations were technological improvements and a shorter primary season rather than the grueling months-long 2012 primary campaign that subjected GOP candidates to 20 primary debates in which the candidates attacked each other more than President Obama. In its place, the report suggested limiting the number of debates to 10 or 12 and moving the nominating convention from late summer to June or July.
As for the partys policies, it called for Republicans to change our tone on some social issues, but it lacked specifics. The study noted a generational divided among conservatives on gay rights, which it called a gateway for young voters as the five co-authors warned, If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out. The study also urged party leaders to embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform to appeal to Hispanic voters.
Instead of driving around in circles on an ideological cul-de-sac, the report suggested the party has to be more open: We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people. But devastatingly, we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on very issue.
Doing so will mean party leaders will have to confront what the report called third party groups that promote purity.
It was a wake-up call for the Republican Party to move toward the center and be more tolerant of diverse opinions.