WASHINGTON – Reeling from back-to-back presidential losses and struggling to cope with the country’s changing racial and ethnic makeup, the Republican National Committee plans to spend $10 million this year to send hundreds of party workers into Hispanic, Black and Asian communities to promote its brand among voters who overwhelmingly supported Democrats in 2012.
Committee chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday also proposed shortening the presidential nominating calendar in 2016 and limiting the number of primary-season debates to avoid the self-inflicted damage from inside-party squabbling on the eventual nominee. Priebus’ top-to-bottom changes include picking the moderators for the debates and then crowning the nominee as early as June so he or she could begin a general election campaign as quickly as possible.
“Mitt Romney was a sitting duck for two months over the summer,” Priebus said of the 2012 GOP nominee.
To help his party ahead of the 2016 contest already in its earliest stages, Priebus said he would be hiring new staffers to build the GOP among voters in the states.
“It will include hundreds of people _ paid _ across the country, from coast-to-coast, in Hispanic, African American, Asian communities, talking about our party, talking about our brand, talking about what we believe in, going to community events, going to swearing-in ceremonies, being a part of the community on an ongoing basis, paid for by the Republican National Committee, to make the case for our party and our candidates,” Priebus said.
That move was part of the recommendations included in a monthslong 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. Priebus also asked the group to examine how they could work with independent groups such as super political action committees.
Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under former president George W. Bush, and Sally Bradshaw, a veteran strategist and 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.
Priebus planned a full-scale rollout of their recommendations Monday, although the proposals are far from a done deal. They would have to win the approval of the 168-member Republican National Committee and then each state’s election chief would have to abide by the party’s proposed calendar or face consequences, such as losing voting delegates to the nominating convention. The states previously have ignored such penalties.
Priebus said the party review recommended downplaying its internal divisions among candidates, which forced Romney to take more conservative positions on issues such as immigration during his quest to capture the party’s nomination. In all, Priebus counted 23 debates among his party’s crowded field of contenders, and there were a handful of other events _ including a Newt Gingrich-Herman Cain faceoff in Texas _ that distracted from their main task of defeating Obama.
“Our primary process was way too long… I think we had way too many debates with our candidates slicing and dicing each other,” Priebus said, adding that under his proposal the party would pick the networks that would host the debates and journalists who would question the candidates.
“I would limit the debate to a reasonable amount, maybe seven or eight. But not 23. It’s ridiculous,” Priebus said. “While we were playing footsy debating each other 23 times, what was the other side doing? … They were actually getting the job done.”
Exit polls indicated Obama carried female, Black, Hispanic and Asian voting blocs. He also won among voters under the age of 45 and those who lived in mid- to large-sized cities.
That spells troubles for the GOP in a nation that is increasingly diverse. The latest census data and polling from The Associated Press suggest non-Hispanic whites will lose their majority in the next generation, somewhere around the year 2043.
In 2010’s elections, Republicans enjoyed the biggest midterm gains since 1938 and became the majority party in the U.S. House. Yet two years later, Democrats captured the biggest prize in American politics, the presidency, and picked up seats in both of Congress’ chambers. Despite solid fundraising from the party and quick work from Romney after he won the nomination, the GOP couldn’t overcome Obama’s four-year head start and on-the-ground organization.
“We have become a party that parachutes into communities four months before an election,” Priebus said. “The Obama campaign lived in these communities for years.”
Priebus spoke with CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
By PHILIP ELLIOTT