In campaign to win "hearts," GOP chairman heads to Brooklyn
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. / Mark Wilson
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - A week before unveiling a post-mortem report on its electoral failures in the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and its chairman, Reince Priebus, headed to Brooklyn this afternoon for a meeting with black voters, part of an ongoing effort by the GOP establishment to build its rapport with a demographic that hasn't had much love for it in recent years.
The event, which took place at the Christian Cultural Center in East Brooklyn, served as an opportunity for the GOP establishment to build up a "national effort, in a granular community way, in building up both the brand of the Republican Party and making us more successful in the ballot box," according to Priebus, who spoke to reporters before the meeting convened.
Approximately 20 people were present for the actual discussion, including faith leaders, CEOs, and community members. The meeting itself was closed to the press.
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"This is the right thing to do, to build our base, and to find new people, and to promote different people," he said. "Not just go along the same road that they've gone. Because obviously we know where that's going to end up in four years."
In the aftermath of the 2012 election, in which President Obama won an overwhelming majority of support among minority populations -- including 93 percent support from black voters and 71 percent from Latinos -- Republican leaders have acknowledged a growing need to reach non-white voters across the country in order to stay relevant going forward. Today's so-called "listening session" is part of the RNC's effort to address that need: According to RNC spokesman Sean Spicer, Priebus has personally conducted similar outreach meetings in Texas, Georgia, Colorado, California, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
"Today is about listening and today is a start. I'm not coming here with all of the answers but I am coming here with an open heart and an open mind and a serious drive," Priebus said.
In addition to just showing up -- which Priebus suggested is a major first step for he GOP when it comes to courting black voters -- he also stressed the need to spend real time and money in identifying and supporting candidates of various backgrounds on the local level as well as nationally.
"Our commitment is, yes, to be... really intelligent about the choices we're making and the people we're promoting not just at a congressional level but even at a community level," he said.
But branding is also part of the problem, he said.
"We can win the math war, but if you're not winning the heart war you can't win an election. And if you think that the only thing that matters is the question of jobs and the economy we learned a pretty big lesson," he argued, reflecting on the 2012 election. "I think it's also a matter of being a welcoming party... We have to get back to the time, and me as chairman of the party, to repeat from a mountaintop that any person that wants to walk in that door...is welcome."
That, Priebus acknowledged, will take time -- and it could be years before any major progress is noted. But he insisted the party is willing to do what it takes.
"We have to have the long view of this," Priebus said. "Talk is cheap. If you don't see anything happen from this party and if you don't see me again... then it is a bunch of talk. But that's not the legacy that we're interested in having."
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