Storified by Brian Empric· Thu, Mar 28 2013 18:30:47
“The National Republican Congressional Committee is the first GOP entity to take specific steps to try to rectify the party’s widely acknowledged polling debacle… The Republicans’ 17-seat House majority is their last bulwark against full Democratic control of the federal government, and senior party officials say they don’t intend to lose that firewall thanks to shoddy polling.”
“The committee has formed a new Strategy Department tasked with projecting district-by-district population changes and mapping best- and worst-case turnout scenarios for campaigns to use in guiding their surveys.”
“The NRCC-organized talks between pollsters have also produced a set of standards and practices that campaigns will be urged to follow for 2014. Pollsters will be expected to have at least 30 percent of their samples made up of cell phone users, if not more – an attempt to capture more of the Democratic-leaning young voters who eluded GOP survey-gatherers last year.”
“Since the 2014 congressional map is essentially set – unlike last cycle, when redistricting left many states in flux until late in the cycle – Republicans have an opportunity to develop a common set of assumptions about turnout and then look for opportunities to shift the playing field in the GOP’s favor, strategists said.”
“[T]he NRCC effort may be the narrowest and most tangible effort so far to improve the GOP’s campaign machinery, and the one most likely to yield real results over the short term.”
“For the first time, I am wondering about the long-term viability of the Republican Party. I say this not as an advocate of its demise or restructuring but as an observer of troubling signs.
“The Republican Party is thought to be the institutional vehicle for the advancement of conservative policies, but for decades, the conservative movement has been frustrated with the party's deviation from conservative principles -- its refusal to live up to its decidedly conservative platform.”
“I'd feel better if the ongoing competition between Reagan conservatives and establishment Republicans were the only big fissure in the GOP right now, but there are other cracks that threaten to break wide open, too. Our problems transcend our differing approaches to the size and scope of government and to fiscal and other economic issues.
“Reagan conservatism is no longer under attack from just establishment Republicans; it's also under attack from many inside the conservative movement itself. Reagan conservatism is a three-legged stool of fiscal, foreign policy and social issues conservatism. But today many libertarian-oriented conservatives are singing from the liberal libertine hymnal that the GOP needs to remake its image as more inclusive, more tolerant, less judgmental and less strident. In other words, it needs to lighten up and quit opposing gay marriage, at least soften its position on abortion, and get on board the amnesty train to legalize illegal immigrants. I won't even get into troubling foreign policy divisions among so-called neocons, so-called isolationists and those who simply believe we should conduct our foreign policy based foremost on promoting our strategic national interests.”
“I belong to the school that believes the Republican Party must remain the party of mainstream Reagan conservatism rather than try to become a diluted version of the Democratic Party. This does not mean Republicans can't come up with creative policy solutions when advisable, but it does mean that conservatism is based on timeless principles that require no major revisions. Conservatives are champions of freedom, the rule of law and enforcement of the social compact between government and the people enshrined in the Constitution, which imposes limitations on government in order to maximize our liberties. If we reject these ideas, then we have turned our backs on what America means and what has made America unique. What's the point of winning elections if the price is American exceptionalism?”
“First, the committee declared that the GOP ‘must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.’ ‘If we do not,’ the committee said, ‘our party's appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.’
“Committing so firmly to comprehensive immigration reform is not only a measure of the GOP's anxiety over its dismal showing among Hispanic voters last November. It's also a gamble that risks exacerbating tensions between the party's elites and grass roots.”
“Two-thirds of Republican voters believe a pathway to citizenship will just encourage more illegal immigration,” says pollster Scott Rasmussen, “and 58 percent of all voters believe federal policies continue to encourage illegal immigration.”
“The RNC's other exception to the no-policy rule involves gay marriage. ‘There is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and rights of gays -- and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the party is a place they want to be,’ the report says. ‘If our party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out.’
“That is not a flat-out declaration that the RNC supports gay marriage -- but it's pretty close…”
“In a new ABC News-Washington Post poll, just 34 percent of Republicans support gay marriage while 59 percent oppose it. Among those who call themselves conservative Republicans, support is at 24 percent, with 71 percent opposed. On another hot-button issue sure to receive extensive coverage in the press, the Washington-based party elites have placed themselves in opposition to the grass roots.
“A lot of what the RNC autopsy committee recommends is uncontroversial. The party certainly needs an upgrade in technology, voter contact, communications -- in pretty much every aspect of its operations. But its two forays into policy could come back to haunt the RNC in the not-too-distant future.”
“The GOP’s prescription to cure the ills that helped bring on yet another disastrous presidential cycle would revamp its presidential nominating rules in ways to benefit well-funded candidates and hamper insurgents - a move that quickly heated up the already smoldering feud between the Republican establishment and the tea party-inspired base.”
“John Brabender, Santorum’s chief adviser, said the reforms would favor the moneyed candidates.
“While I commend Chairman Priebus for taking important steps to remedy Republicans’ recent election failures, I am troubled by the possibility of a condensed presidential primary process which undoubtedly gives an advantage to establishment backed candidates and the wealthiest candidates,” said Brabender.
“Any changes to the party’s nominating process would have to be ratified by the full membership of the RNC. The first debate on the recommendation will take place next month at the party’s spring meeting in Los Angeles, but party veterans don’t expect any final resolution on the 2016 plan that soon.”
“The general idea of a shorter primary has strong appeal among many Republicans who prefer beating Democrats than beating up on each other.”
“Conservatives have been particularly suspicious of the committee since it was announced last year because three of the best-known members — (former Bush spokesman Ari) Fleischer, (Florida GOP strategist and Jeb Bush adviser Sally) Bradshaw and (Mississippi GOP committeeman Henry) Barbour — are pillars of the party establishment. And after reading the primary recommendations, these movement Republicans feel vindicated their concerns were well-placed.”
“Here is what is wrong with the Republican Party. This author taught in a sales training seminar firm in Eastern Europe, International Trendsetters. The solutions are overwhelmingly time-tested and proven in real life. This is not theory. Republicans are chronically making classic rookie sales mistakes.”
“You must explain how a policy benefits the voter. Bad salesmen talk about features -- the radio has a better tuner. Good salesmen talk about how the radio benefits the customer -- you will enjoy the music more and set a better mood for your love interest because it sounds better and clearer.”
“RNC Chairman Reince Priebus explained that we must talk about how Americans benefit from low taxes and lower national debt… We fail to explain why those details actually matter to the voter… But isn't it obvious? No. Classic rookie mistake. It's obvious to you if you spend lots of time thinking about these things. It's not obvious to busy people who have other things to think about, which they feel are more important in their lives. Yes, you have to draw them a map.”
“Republicans skip over too many steps and assume too much. The American voters are smart. But they haven't spent as much time thinking about your topic as you have. We have to be able to empathize with the busy listener and even remember how we were when we first learned about these issues.
“It is amazing that the GOP has been so bad at this, when Ronald Reagan was so good at it. If anyone is thinking of running for office, Step #1 is to listen to every speech Ronald Reagan ever gave. Several times. Reagan ‘got’ it. Then the GOP lost it.”
“If you don't explain how GOP policies benefit the listener, their minds will fill in the vacuum with other explanations. If you don't provide a reason, their minds will provide one for you.”
“We view objections with dread. A voter tells you why they don't like the GOP. Time-tested sales techniques have proven that objections are opportunities. When a prospect tells you what he is concerned about, you now have the opportunity to address his or her concerns… most sales succeed after not just the first negative response, but after several negative issues are raised and discussed. But you have to care about the other person as much as you care about yourself to answer their concerns fully, fairly, and respectfully.”
“You are not going to win over any hearts or minds sitting in your office across the street from the Capitol South Metro station (the RNC headquarters). It is common sense that you have to go out and talk to Hispanics, Blacks, and other groups.”
“Will they buy your product? I don't know. But I do know this: They will never buy your product if you don't go talk to them and ask. Many a salesman has struggled with having a call list but wasting the day avoiding making the sales calls. Most salespeople -- and Republicans -- spend most of their time making excuses to avoid going out and talking to people they might win over.”
“Democrats are able to talk directly to voters, unfiltered, without having to beg reporters to cover the issues or people they want, while controlling the spin placed on each news tidbit.”
“Sales experts study how to get messages across because real money is on the line. Sales principles are the solutions for the GOP.”
“It’s tempting to ascribe value to their report based on its size alone: 219 recommendations! But a closer examination of the prescriptions shows a lot of bureaucratic bumbling — lots of listening sessions and new councils and minority group committees. Anyone searching for meat will have to chew through a lot of fat first.”
“The report contains a brief section on candidate recruitment. But it fails to address the single most important reason that the Republican Party lost in 2012: Willard Mitt Romney… Voters just didn’t like our guy, as evidenced by his stagnant approval ratings throughout the campaign.”
“The report calls GOP governors ‘America’s reformers in chief’ who show the need to ‘modernize the Party.’ But it’s difficult to think of a big decision made by a Republican governor that hasn’t been on the conservative radar screen for a long time. GOP governors succeeded by applying long-held principles, not by throwing those principles overboard in the name of modernity.”
“Naturally the Growth and Opportunity Project is worried about losing young voters. But its recommendations for connecting with today’s youth are both shallow (‘Establish an RNC Celebrity Task Force’!) and shortsightedly focused on social issues.”
“The autopsy makes the common mistake of assuming comprehensive immigration reform is a tonic for the GOP’s problem with Hispanic voters. We can debate the merits of such a proposal, but it’s simply not true that support for looser immigration policies will convert Latinos… Hispanics, unfortunately, are falling for the big-government promises of economic liberalism.”
“Early on, the report encourages Republicans to shed the party’s reputation as a tool of big business and ‘be the champion of those who seek to climb the economic ladder of life’…”
“The report recommends updating both the Republican Party’s social media outreach and data analytics, both of which are crucial to attracting new voters, especially young ones.”
“So will the autopsy have a serious impact? Probably not. On the campaign side, Republican consultants are already aware of most of the report’s diagnoses. On the ideas side, conservative thinkers and activists are hardly inclined to take their cues from a bunch of party suits. Give the news cycle a few more spins and the autopsy will likely be forgotten.”
“There are seven states now represented by Democrats that Mitt Romney won last year (the list above, plus North Carolina). Republicans need to carry most of them, and retirements in West Virginia and likely South Dakota help.”
“Historical patterns favor the GOP. Midterms tend to bring out a higher share of whiter and older (read: Republican) voters. Typically, a reelected president’s party loses seats in the next election…”
“Another tier of opportunity for Republicans is a trio of swing states represented by Democrats: Minnesota (Al Franken), Colorado (Mark Udall) and New Hampshire (Jeanne Shaheen). All three senators appear to be in solid shape; knocking off any one of them would be a big boon for Republicans.”
“Republicans have defeated only three sitting Democratic senators — Tom Daschle, Russ Feingold and Blanche Lincoln — in the past decade. That makes winning open seats all the more critical for the GOP. Enter West Virginia, South Dakota and Iowa.”
“Other open seats are less up for grabs. Democrats are favored to hold Sen. Carl Levin’s seat in Michigan (though Republicans promise to contest it) and almost certainly will keep Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s New Jersey seat. The same is true for Republicans in Nebraska and Georgia, where Sens. Mike Johanns and Saxby Chambliss have called it quits, respectively.”
“Republicans get to play offense this cycle. Democrats must defend 21 seats, compared with 14 for Republicans. The only GOP senator in a state Obama carried, Maine’s Susan Collins, is running again and should win handily.”