Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus on Friday touted a year's worth of progress for the GOP since the release of "The Growth and Opportunity Project" last year that recommended changes for Republicans to make in order to reclaim the White House. But comments regarding women's libidos from former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., at the party's winter meeting on Thursday deviated from those recommendations and underscored Priebus' plea for Republicans to improve their tone.
"The truth is, the RNC can't do it all. It's up to other committees and, of course, the candidates do their parts, too. But our example matters," Priebus said.
"I've said many times before that the policies and principles of our party are sound. However, as we look to grow the ranks of our party, we must all be very conscious of the tone and choice of words we use to communicate those policies effectively," he added, repeating the mantra he initiated last year in reaction to several Republican candidates who made comments that were perceived as insensitive in 2012.
Sharon Day, an RNC co-chair, followed up Priebus' speech, emphasizing the importance of winning back women for the Republican Party saying, "Women are not a coalition, we are not a group to be outreached to -- we are 53 percent of the vote. And if Republican candidates want to win elections, if we as Republicans want to win elections, then we as a party need to start delivering women's votes."
Huckabee stirred up controversy Thursday when he argued that Democrats believe women are "helpless" and in need of government handouts and that Republicans want to empower women "to be something other than victims of their gender."
“Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe
that they are helpless without 'Uncle Sugar' coming in and for providing
for them a prescription each month for birth control because they
cannot control their libido or reproductive system without the help of
the government - then so be it," Huckabee said.
Priebus responded to Huckabee's comments, telling the Washington Post, "I don't know what he was talking about. Sort of a goofy way of using some phrases. Not the way I would have phrased it."
When asked if Priebus' comments Friday reiterating the need to amend tone was a dig at Huckabee, RNC press secretary Kirsten Kukowski told CBS News in an email: "Chairman's comments were prepared weeks ago. As you maybe aware there have been several things regarding tone that have come up recently and the chairman has been vocal about this for some time."
Huckabee defended his remarks Friday night telling Fox News, "In fact everything I was accused of saying, I was actually saying the polar opposite. This was an affirmation of the intelligence, of the capability of women."
He said that his speech was taken out of context and he wasn't arguing against women having access to birth control.
"I’m not opposed to women having access to it, I'm opposed to Democrats treating women as though they are somehow incapable of being able to function unless the Democrats and particularly the government comes in to rescue them," he argued.
However, privately, some Republican committee members expressed frustration and disappointment with Huckabee's remarks. The media blitz surrounding the former Arkansas governor's luncheon speech overshadowed the RNC's outreach efforts, some griped, specifically a "Rising Stars" forum following Huckabee's speech that featured five up and coming female Republican leaders.
"A number of committee members were unhappy," one state Republican official told CBS News. "His speech was a good one but his choice of words was poor and undercut his message and that's a fairly broad sentiment."