POLITICS

GOP vows to reach out to gays, minorities, women

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Photo - WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 18:  Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus talks with members of the press after speaking at the National Press Club March 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. During his remarks on a recent "autopsy" held by the RNC on its shortcomings in the 2012 presidential campaign, Priebus announced a series of recommendations including fewer presidential debates, an earlier national convention, and community outreach programs in addition to other new initiatives.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 18: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus talks with members of the press after speaking at the National Press Club March 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. During his remarks on a recent "autopsy" held by the RNC on its shortcomings in the 2012 presidential campaign, Priebus announced a series of recommendations including fewer presidential debates, an earlier national convention, and community outreach programs in addition to other new initiatives. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Politics Digest

By Susan Ferrechio

Chief Congressional Correspondent

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Monday released a comprehensive report that pledged big changes to broaden the party by attracting minorities, gays and women, but he faces skepticism from those who fear the party is shifting away from its conservative roots.

Among the doubters is former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, a moderate who pushed minority and youth outreach during his tenure at the party's helm but says he faced a wall of resistance from party officials.

"Reince seems to think parroting me or creating another top-down structure is somehow going to lead to disaffected voters turning to the party," Steele told The Washington Examiner. "If this was such a priority for him or anyone else at the RNC, then why wasn't it in 2012?"

Conservatives, meanwhile, warned that the party risked alienating voters who form its foundation.

Popular conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh predicted that if the GOP starts backing gay marriage, it will cause "their base to stay home and throw up their hands in frustration, whether they like it or not."

Priebus on Monday released a 97-page report titled "The Growth & Opportunity Project" to outline the RNC's new path forward. It warned that if the GOP does not find ways to attract youth, minorities and women, it stands little chance of winning in 2014 or 2016.

"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," officials lamented in the report.

The party has made other attempts to broaden its base.

In 1999 and 2000, Republicans zeroed in on winning Hispanic voters by creating community outreach programs and sending staff into Spanish-speaking communities around the country. The effort helped President George W. Bush win 44 percent of the Latino vote in the 2000 election.

But the program didn't last, and recent Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney did little to reach out to Hispanics. As a result, he won just 27 percent of their vote.

Priebus said the party will now spend $10 million on an intensive outreach program aimed not just at Hispanics but at communities populated by black and Asian voters, as well.

The report, authored by party officials and consultants, also calls for the GOP to "embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform," and it calls for the party to reach out to gay voters "and demonstrate that we care about them, too."

Republican political consultant Ford O'Connell said the party is serious about making big changes before the next presidential election. Otherwise, the GOP faces being shut out of the White House for eight more years, especially if Hillary Clinton runs on the Democratic ticket.

"Republicans are really reading the tea leaves," O'Connell said. "This change is truly out of necessity."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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