18 Mar 2013
By David Yonkman, Washington Correspondent
The “Growth and Opportunity Project” introduced by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus included 219 recommendations focused on how to restructure the party through messaging, connecting with youth and minority voters, campaign mechanics and technology.
“They’re saying a lot of the same things that we’ve been saying,” says Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks. “One of the key things that seem to be missing though is that the GOP only seems to win when it runs on ideas.”
He said that recently elected tea party candidates like GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas all ran on the mounting national deficit and $16 trillion in debt, but he doesn’t see that reflected in the report.
“The energy people are talking about something that really matters,” Kibbe said. “[The RNC] is telling people, ‘don’t run on ideas, don’t say anything that will ruffle anybody’s feathers and just squeak by.’”
The 97-page RNC report extensively reviewed the 2012 election and revealed its playbook for the 2014 election cycle.
Five veteran Republican strategists — including former President George W. Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleisher, and Florida GOP strategist and Jeb Bush adviser Sally Bradshaw — interviewed some 50,000 rank-and-file Republicans and conducted months of research for the report.
It received a positive reception from leading Republicans.
House Speaker John Boehner, House Budget Committee Chairman and 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia all took to Twitter to praise the report upon its release.
As did former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: “The Reince revolution is underway. Today’s Republican national committee report is historic. It is first big step toward GOP majority,” he Tweeted.
However, at least one of the recommendations, to halve the number of primary debates from 20 in the 2012 cycle, drew an angry reaction from allies of potential 2016 hopefuls Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum.
They say that such recommendations are aimed at hurting candidates who do well in caucuses and conventions and need debates to get attention, according to Politico.
“Caucuses give you a better glimpse of what the base of the party wants,” said Iowa GOP Chair A.J. Spiker, who hails from the Paul wing of the party, Politico reported. “And those people, they aren’t going to be swayed as easily by television ads as a primary voter. They’re a more politically educated voter.”
Spiker added that an “attempt to get rid of that is really an attempt to get rid of what the base of the party wants. I think RNC membership would object to that too.”
A close Paul adviser was even blunter, warning the party against pushing primaries rather than caucuses, Politico reported.
“Elimination of caucuses would mean nuclear war with the grassroots, social conservatives and [the] Ron Paul movement,” the publication said.
Conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh criticized RNC leaders for suggesting that conservatives were “disrespectful” and “out of touch,” saying it was the opposite.
“I’m sorry, but we’re not disrespectful to anybody. Look at what these focus groups have got these poor guys believing. Look at this, [GOP critics say,] ‘Our party is narrow minded.’ Republicans are not narrow minded,” the conservative commentator said on his radio program, according to the publication.
He later added: “It’s not accepting that as true because it isn’t. [You might say,] ‘But Rush, perception is reality. You said it yourself.’ Well, that’s true. But out of touch? Not out of touch. We are in touch with the founding of this country. We are in touch with the greatness in this country and its people.”
Former RNC chairman Michael Steele had harsh words for Priebus, saying he had failed to effectively lead the party last year and that the GOP had “no message” and “no focus,” according to Politico.
At his press conference on Monday, Priebus said that when he arrived to take over the RNC, the party’s two credit cards had been cancelled under Steele’s watch.
“I won. And he didn’t,” Steele said on MSNBC, noting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell won on his watch even before the GOP blowout in 2010. “We laid down the ground game, a national, 50-state strategy. We didn’t have to go through the hype-la and hoopla of press conferences, we just went out and did the heavy work of rebuilding the party coming off of massive losses in 2006 and 2008.”