Published March 18, 2013
The Republican Party, after holding up a mirror to itself and completing a lengthy analysis of what went wrong in the last election cycle, issued an extensive report Monday that formally endorsed immigration reform and outlined an ambitious drive to reach out to minority groups and build a winning coalition.
"When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us," the Republican National Committee's report said, asserting that "many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them."
The RNC outlined a $10 million plan to reach out to minority groups in a bid to attract voters, whom the report acknowledged the party has been turning off.
"Public perception of the party is at record lows," the report said.
Leading off the set of recommendations was a call for the party to "stop talking to itself."
To broaden its appeal, the party must embrace immigration legislation, according to one recommendation in the report: "We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our party's appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only," it said. The study also called for being more "inclusive and welcoming" when it comes to social issues.
The report, though, also described two different tracks for the GOP. On one, state-level candidates are winning elections and re-defining the party. On the other, the "federal wing" of Republicans is "increasingly marginalizing itself."
The report said "it is time for Republicans on the federal level to learn from successful Republicans on the state level."
The report calls on Republicans to take a harder line with corporate America, loosen political fundraising laws in Washington and in state capitals, and cut in half the number of candidate debates in a shortened 2016 presidential primary calendar.
"When Republicans lost in November, it was a wakeup call," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said.
The Republican National Committee's shift on minority outreach may be the most visible change in the coming months.
Priebus plans to dispatch hundreds of paid workers into Hispanic, black and Asian communities across the nation by the end of the summer, a $10 million effort meant to rival President Obama's national political machine.
The RNC also will push for a tone of "tolerance and respect" in the immigration debate, create "senior level advisory councils" focused on minority groups, and establish "swearing-in citizenship teams" to connect with new voters immediately after swearing-in ceremonies.
"We need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case," the report says. "We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too."
The recommendations will not be well received in all corners of the Republican Party.
Some Republicans, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio among them, are working toward bipartisan immigration reform that is likely to include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants -- sometimes called "amnesty." Conservative commentator Ann Coulter ripped the idea in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend.
"If amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will ever win another national election," Coulter said.
The RNC's recommendations follow an extensive look at what went wrong in 2012.
Priebus tapped a handful of respected party leaders to examine how the GOP could better talk with voters, raise money from donors and learn from Democrats' tactics. The report also suggests that party officials could lean more on independent groups such as super political action committees to fund television advertising campaigns, allowing the Republican National Committee to focus on strategy and contacting voters.
Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under former President George W. Bush, and Bradshaw, a top adviser to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, were among those leading the inquiry. Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour, a GOP strategist and nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, was also part of the group. RNC members Zori Fonalledas of Puerto Rico and Glenn McCall of South Carolina rounded out the five-person committee that listened to Republicans' ideas and frustrations.
Those leaders heard from 50,000 rank-and-file members about how to respond to the nation's shifting demographics.
The proposals -- particularly those affecting the presidential primary calendar -- are far from a done deal. They would have to win the approval of the 168-member RNC and then each state's election chief would have to abide by the party's proposed calendar.
The report recommends reducing the number of presidential primary debates to approximately 10 to 12, with the first scheduled no earlier than Sept. 1, 2015. It calls for the primary calendar to begin with the traditional "carve out" states -- such as Iowa and New Hampshire -- before moving to a major reorganization, such as a "regional primary system" finished by mid-May.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.