How far will the GOP go to broaden the tent?
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, left, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, right. / AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
The post-game analysis over November's election continues, but as Republicans reflect on their electoral losses, a common consensus has emerged on the right: the GOP, if it is to stay relevant and competitive in the coming years, has to broaden its demographic appeal.
In the the days following the election, as strategists unpacked the cause of Mitt Romney's presidential demise, exit poll data offered some early insight into what went wrong: Romney, despite winning among white voters in all age groups, had dismal showings in almost every minority group. He lost the Latino vote to Obama 71 percent to 27 percent. His numbers were worse among Asian-Americans, who voted for the president 73 percent to 26 percent. And, as the GOP had anticipated, it was no contest among African-Americans, 93 percent of whom voted to re-elect Mr. Obama.
On the morning of November 7, Republicans were already calling for change: Al Cardenas, the head of the American Conservative Union, told Politico that the GOP "needs to realize that it's too old and too white and too male and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it's too late."
More recently, Republican pollster Whit Ayres released a memo warning the GOP that it had "run out of persuadable white voters," and that "To be competitive nationally in the future, Republicans must do better among non-white Americans."
"There are a whole lot of smart Republicans who realize we've got to go in a new direction," Ayres told CBSNews.com.
Even as they tout newfound resolve to overhaul their outreach methodology and appeal to new voters, however, some question whether the party is willing to embrace the substantive change necessary to bring their goals to fruition.
A new direction?
In light of the party's recent losses -- Republicans lost seats in the House and Senate as well as in the presidency -- the GOP says it's committed to learning from the mistakes of the last cycle. The RNC recently launched a five-person committee aimed at evaluating the committee's work leading up to the 2012 election, and RNC spokesperson Sean Spicer insisted the committee is committed to taking actionable steps that will help reverse some of the recent demographic trends.
"We're looking at everything," Spicer told CBSNews.com. He says each member of the five-person team - which comprises RNC committee member Henry Barbour, Jeb Bush adviser Sally Bradshaw, former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, Puerto Rico RNC committee member Zori Fonalledas, and South Carolina RNC member Glenn McCall - will take the lead on a certain issue and do extensive outreach to discern how to be more effective in the future. They'll look primarily at how to attract new voters going forward, and related questions of messaging, mechanics, get out the vote efforts, via conference calls, one-on-one discussion, and formal meetings.
"The goal obviously is to grow the party and win elections," Spicer said.
A big part of that equation has to do with increasing support among Latino voters. Not only did the overwhelming support of Hispanic voters help deliver Mr. Obama his re-election this year, but as the fastest-growing population in the U.S., Latinos will be an increasingly crucial voting bloc going forward. Romney is believed to have been badly damaged among Latinos by his harsh rhetoric on immigration reform during the primaries - one of his suggestions included "self-deportation" - as well as the party's generally unsympathetic tone on the subject.
In recent years, according to Ayres, Republicans "persuaded themselves that they could use very harsh language about undocumented Hispanics without offending those who are here legally, but that was very misguided." In his report, "The Hispanic Challenge and Opportunity for Republicans," he argues that fixing the nation's immigration system is just one of the many measures the party will have to adopt in order to make serious inroads into the community.
It's clear that lawmakers are getting the message: Many congressional Republicans have already softened their tone with regard to immigration, and Republican members of both the House and the Senate put forth immigration-related bills within just weeks of the election.
"A great many Republicans already have the right tone: People like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio promote conservative policies of limited government in a way that is very welcoming to new people who might not have been Republicans in the past," Ayres said. "So it's not like we don't have examples out there."
Talk vs. action
Despite the recent display of inclusiveness, it's unclear how far the GOP is willing to go on a policy level to make way for new members, and some wonder how fast change can feasibly come to a party that's dominated by elderly white men.
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