Will the RNC 'Autopsy' Report Revive the GOP or is it DOA?

Following the GOP’s decisive defeat in November’s presidential election, the RNC assembled a special committee to analyze what went wrong and make recommendations for the future. The five members of the committee, made up of former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, former Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi, GOP consultant Sally Bradshaw, Puerto Rico Committeewoman Zori Fonalledas, and South Carolina Committeeman Glenn McCall, released their report today.
The resulting 100 page report, being called an “autopsy” by RNC Chair Reince Priebus, is entitled the “Growth and Opportunity Project.” In the words of the Committee, “The Grand Old Party should be synonymous with the name ‘Growth and Opportunity Party.'”
While Republicans can agree that the most glaring deficiency in Romney’s organization was in campaign mechanics (i.e., Project Orca, GOTV, etc.), organization (Democrats had twice as many field offices), and messaging (failing to adequately answer Obama’s outrageous television ads in battleground states), the report goes further by recommending changes in the Republican stance on immigration policy and in the primary process.
The RNC would be wise to narrow its focus to mechanics and organization, the areas in which we clearly failed in 2012.
Regarding voter turnout, the committee reports that, “Democrats had the clear edge on new media and ground game, in terms of both reach and effectiveness. Obama’s campaign knocked on twice as many doors as the Romney campaign, and Obama’s campaign had a ballot edge among those contacted by both campaigns.”
The question that we should continue to ask of the RNC is:  Why do the Democrats have permanent field offices in key battleground states when Republicans do not? Since Obama’s first campaign in 2008, the Democratic field offices have continued to operate non-stop and continue to this day. The Democrats are expanding their operations and have even targeted Texas with a new organization, “Battleground Texas.” Launched by the President’s former national field director Jeremy Bird, the Democrats plan to turn Texas blue by registering more voters and mobilizing those who are already registered.
The RNC plan calls for “Investment in Field Staff Operations” in Section 23.8. Thank goodness. Read more about the huge advantage the Democrats hold in field offices here: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/obamas-edge-the-ground-game-that-could-put-him-over-the-top/264031/
As far as process, the Report endorses reform of the primary schedule by recommending a more compressed primary season, replacing state caucuses and conventions with primaries, moving the convention date to June or July, and holding fewer debates. States who do not abide by the RNC primary rules would be subject to penalties in the form of a reduced number of convention delegates.
It is true that the primary calendar is long and difficult. However, in a shortened primary season, candidates who lack the financial ability to campaign in several states at once will be severely handicapped. Critics of the report are concerned that these measures benefit establishment candidates, a charge bolstered by the fact that three of the committee’s five members (Fleischer, Barbour, Bradshaw) are long-time establishment operatives. Candidates like Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, who tend to dominate caucuses and who have less financial staying power, would be unable to compete with well-financed candidates in a 5-month primary season.
The report goes on to state that voters, when asked to describe Republicans, say that the GOP is “scary,” narrow minded,”and “out of touch,” and that we are a party of “stuffy old men.” It asserts that the GOP must embrace comprehensive immigration reform as well as be more inclusive and tolerant of homosexuals, because “there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays – and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.”
“We also recommend broadening the base of the party and inviting as many voters as possible into the Republican Party by discouraging conventions and caucuses for the purpose of allocating delegates to the national convention,” the committee writes. “Our party needs to grow its membership, and primaries seem to be a more effective way to do so.”
Nowhere in the report does the committee encourage a recommitment to conservative principles. In fact, on Page 4 it warns, “Ronald Reagan is a Republican hero and role model who was first elected 33 years ago – meaning no one under the age of 51 today was old enough to vote for Reagan when he first ran for President. Our Party knows how to appeal to older voters, but we have lost our way with younger ones. We sound increasingly out of touch.”
What seems to be the overarching theme of the report? Shorten the primary, make it harder for grassroots candidates to compete, embrace moderate policies, renounce our out-of-touch conservative principles, be more inclusive, and follow the RNC rules.
This will not go over well.
As a former RNC member, I have seen the disconnect between the establishment and the base up close and personally. The RNC solution is always to moderate and to control. What we should be doing is encouraging competition and grassroots participation; this report discourages it.
While there are some worthwhile suggestions and recommendations, overall this report will most likely throw gasoline on the war between the base and the establishment.
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