GOP soul-searching after November losses

Apr 26, 2013

National Republican leaders are doing some soul searching after suffering losses in November. Matt Laslo reports from Washington on what Wyoming Republican lawmakers think of the new effort.  

MATT LASLO: The Republican National Committee says the GOP has a problem with women and minority voters. In assessing the parties lackluster showing in 20-12, party leaders introduced a 219 point proposal to help soften the party’s image, including doing better outreach in communities that are traditionally Democratic strongholds.

CYNTHIA LUMMIS:  “I do, absolutely I agree with that.”

LASLO:  That’s Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis. She says a part of the problem for the Republican Party is optics.   

LUMMIS: “Our message, our fundamental American values should be appealing to women, to Hispanics, to Asians, to blacks. We talk about it wrong. We look like a party of white Americans. We look very male and we don’t address ourselves and our fundamental values to those communities.”

LASLO:  Republicans felt the wind at their backs going into last year’s presidential election. They trounced Democrats in the 20-10 midterms…even regaining control of the U-S House after just four years out of power. But the party did a lot worse than many Republicans expected in 20-12…losing Senate and House races that many thought were a lock. As Wyoming’s only U-S House member, Lummis says the House losses were particularly hard to watch.  

LUMMIS: “To be honest, and I hate to admit this, if you add up all the votes that Democrat House candidates got around the country versus all the votes that Republican House candidates got around the country, the Democrats won the popular vote.”

LASLO:  Republicans were still able to retain control of the lower chamber in Washington because mostly Republican controlled state legislatures redrew the maps for House districts across the nation…making them safer for the GOP. But the Senate and presidential losses are still stinging party leaders. Wyoming’s John Barrasso is a part of the Republican leadership team in the Senate.

JOHN BARRASSO:  “In this past election it was pretty clear that the president won because many more people believed that he was for someone like them as opposed to the nominee from the Republican Party.”

LASLO:  Barrasso says his party needs to do a better job connecting the dots for voters in the future.

BARRASSO:   “People ask the question: ‘what’s in it for me?’ And I believe our policies are ones on jobs, on the economy, on the debt and on the spending that are ones that are good for the country. We just need to make sure people understand why those policies are good for them personally and for their families.”

LASLO:  The RNC proposal also calls on rank and file Republicans to get behind comprehensive immigration reform. Barrasso says he’s waiting to see a specific proposal before he weighs in. But with the state’s tourism and ranching industries impacted by the current immigration system, he says he’s no stranger to the need for legal migrant workers.

BARASSO:   “I think that you want to try to compete effectively for every voter, and your policies want to be ones that improve the quality of life for all Americans.”

LASLO:  As for the specifics, Congresswoman Lummis says she supports comprehensive immigration reform, but she’s dubious of what some people mean by the term.

LUMMIS: “Now, if comprehensive means amnesty, then I’m not with that definition of comprehensive.”

LASLO:  National GOP officials also want fewer Presidential primary debates and want a shorter primary schedule. They’re also calling on caucus states like Wyoming to move to a primary.  State Republican leaders didn’t return requests for comments on that proposal, but Lummis says instead of trying to dictate the mode of the election, party leaders ought to be looking for ways to bring western concerns into the next presidential primary.

LUMMIS: “For example campaigning in the Midwest and have then a regional Midwest primary. And then the Southeast and have a regional Southeast primary, and then the Rocky Mountain West or something like that that allows candidates to concentrate on a geographic area and the issues that are important in that geographic area.”

LASLO:  With Wyoming’s three congressional lawmakers in safe seats the RNC’s rebranding effort is of less concern to them than to lawmakers in other states. But for their policies to get approved, they’ll need their party to control more than just the House, and if the last election is an indicator, they say that a makeover could do their party good.  

For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Matt Laslo in Washington.