What You Need to Read in the RNC Election-Autopsy Report

It's an astonishingly frank document that calls for major changes in how the party addresses minorities, women, and its own campaign processes.
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The Republican Party on Monday released a 100-page autopsy of how its 2012 presidential campaign was conducted. I've picked out the key sections you need to read from the analytic recommendations and critiques made by the party in this "Growth and Opportunity Project" report. The project report also has a long section of recommendations for GOP friends and allies -- read, PACs and Super PACS -- which I've not excerpted from below.

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The GOP today is a tale of two parties. One of them, the gubernatorial wing, is growing and successful. The other, the federal wing, is increasingly marginalizing itself, and unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.

Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. States in which our presidential candidates used to win, such as New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida, are increasingly voting Democratic. We are losing in too many places.

It has reached the point where in the past six presidential elections, four have gone to the Democratic nominee, at an average yield of 327 electoral votes to 211 for the Republican. During the preceding two decades, from 1968 to 1988, Republicans won five out of six elections, averaging 417 electoral votes to Democrats' 113.

Public perception of the Party is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.

At the federal level, much of what Republicans are doing is not working beyond the core constituencies that make up the Party. On the state level, however, it is a different story. Republicans hold governorships in 30 states with 315 electoral votes, the most governors either party has had in 12 years, and four short of the all-time GOP high of 34 governors who served in the 1920s.

Republican governors are America's reformers in chief. They continue to deliver on conservative promises of reducing the size of government while making people's lives better. They routinely win a much larger share of the minority vote than GOP presidential candidates, demonstrating an appeal that goes beyond the base of the Party.

It is time for Republicans on the federal level to learn from successful Republicans on the state level. It is time to smartly change course, modernize the Party, and learn once again how to appeal to more people, including those who share some but not all of our conservative principles.

At our core, Republicans have comfortably remained the Party of Reagan without figuring out what comes next. 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.

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The perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed.

One of the contributors to this problem is that while Democrats tend to talk about people, Republicans tend to talk about policy. Our ideas can sound distant and removed from people's lives. Instead of connecting with voters' concerns, we too often sound like bookkeepers. We need to do a better job connecting people to our policies.

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If we believe our policies are the best ones to improve the lives of the American people, all the American people, our candidates and office holders need to do a better job talking in normal, people-oriented terms and we need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case. We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too. We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities.

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We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.

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If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence. It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In the last election, Governor Romney received just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. Other minority communities, including Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, also view the Party as unwelcoming. President Bush got 44 percent of the Asian vote in 2004; our presidential nominee received only 26 percent in 2012.

As one conservative, Tea-Party leader, Dick Armey, told us, "You can't call someone ugly and expect them to go to the prom with you. We've chased the Hispanic voter out of his natural home."

We are not a policy committee, but among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party's appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only. We also believe that comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with Republican economic policies that promote job growth and opportunity for all.

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When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming.

If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues.

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The pervasive mentality of writing off blocks of states or demographic votes for the Republican Party must be completely forgotten. The Republican Party must compete on every playing field.

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If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn't want them in the United States, they won't pay attention to our next sentence. It doesn't matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think that we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In essence, Hispanic voters tell us our Party's position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door.

Throughout our discussions with various Hispanic groups, they told us this: Message matters.

Too often Republican elected officials spoke about issues important to the Hispanic community using a tone that undermined the GOP brand within Hispanic communities. Repairing that relationship will require both a tone that "welcomes in" as well as substantial time spent in the community demonstrating a commitment to addressing its unique concerns. As one participant in a regional listening session noted, "The key problem is that the Republican Party's message offends too many people unnecessarily. We win the economic message, which is the most important to voters, but we then lose them when we discuss other issues."

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It is also a fair criticism that Republicans do not do enough to elevate Hispanic leaders within the Party infrastructure. This includes not just candidates running for office, but also senior decision-makers in the RNC's infrastructure. These personnel should not be pigeonholed into demographic outreach, but should be promoted to positions to develop political strategy and provide input on all budgeting decisions. The RNC must rebuild a nationwide database of Hispanic leaders and donors that can be a resource to the Republican community at large.

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The RNC must invest financial resources in Hispanic media. In a $1 billion campaign, much less than 1 percent of the total budget was spent on Hispanic or other demographic group oriented media. At one point during the 2012 campaign, OFA was outspending us 8 to 1 in these media markets. If we are going to attract these groups to our Party and candidates, our budgets, and expenses need to reflect this importance.

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The RNC must improve its efforts to include female voters and promote women to leadership ranks within the committee. Additionally, when developing our Party's message, women need to be part of this process to represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have. There is growing unrest within the community of Republican women frustrated by the Party's negative image among women, and the women who participated in our listening sessions contributed many constructive ideas of ways to improve our brand with women throughout the country and grow the ranks of influential female voices in the Republican Party.

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The Republican Party committees need to understand that women need to be asked to run. Women are less likely to run for office on their own, and we should be encouraging and championing their desire to seek elective office. Additionally, the Republican Party must recognize the unique challenges that female candidates face when running for office, as well as the unique opportunities female candidates provide in winning elections. The Party should provide training programs for potential female candidates that includes fundraising guidance, digital strategy, etc.

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Another consistent theme that emerged from our conversations related to mechanics is the immediate need for the RNC and Republicans to foster what has been referred to as an "environment of intellectual curiosity" and a "culture of data and learning," and the RNC must lead this effort. We need to be much more purposeful and expansive in our use of research and more sophisticated in how we employ data across all campaign and Party functions. No longer can campaign activities be compartmentalized or "siloed" in a way that makes sharing resources and knowledge less efficient.

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...we must develop a deeper talent pool that understands and can deploy data and technology/digital campaigning in decision-making processes and targeting efforts. More active recruiting on college campuses, providing internships and scholarships, and recruiting from commercial firms that may harbor talent with relevant skills sets is critical in providing the talent for future campaigns. The RNC should strive to establish working relationships and open lines of communication with thought leaders in Silicon Valley to ensure the Party is at the forefront of new developments and trends in digital technology. The Party can and should play an important role in building bridges between its digital operatives and the best minds in the Valley and elsewhere. And we must make an earlier commitment to field operations and ground game than we have made in the past to ensure a year-round, election-cycle-to-election-cycle presence that can improve the quality of our voter contact.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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