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Why the new GOP playbook focuses on the wrong things

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus gestures while speaking at the National Press Club in Washington Monday, March 18, 2013. The RNC formally endorsed immigration reform on Monday and outlined plans as part of a strategy to make the GOP more "welcoming and inclusive" for voters who overwhelmingly supported Democrats in 2012. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The GOP is abuzz after party leaders offered a highly critical review of their performance in the last presidential election, and are promising big changes to help bring more voters into the tent and reverse the losses. But a leading political analyst says the Republican National Committee’s new playbook, the “Growth and Opportunity Project Report,” focuses too much on tactics and strategies.

“What it does not focus on is the Republicans potentially changing the message and stance on issues and I think that’s a much more difficult, in depth problem to tackle, I don’t think they’ve come to terms with,” said David Mark, editor-in-chief of the highly respected Politix blog in an appearance on KIRO Radio’s Andrew Walsh Show.

RNC head Reince Preibus unveiled the report Monday, saying Republicans need to do far more to reach minority groups and connect more with the middle class, and called the November election “a wake-up call.”

“There’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; and our primary and debate process needed improvement.”

“So, there’s no one solution,” he said. “There’s a long list of them.”

The report found voters consider the GOP “scary” and “out of touch,” a party of old, white guys.

The playbook is recommending hundreds of fixes including a $10 million marketing campaign, a shorter primary season, fewer debates and an earlier convention to help the eventual nominee get a jump on the general election. But Mark says the report is strangely silent on issues like gay rights and abortion, focusing only on immigration.

“The message of the report seems to be we could have won this election with Mitt Romney as the nominee if he’d just had a better field operation and done better at getting people out to polls,” Mark said.

While Preibus said the party will pay millions to hire hundreds of paid staffers nationwide to recruit Hispanics and other minorities, Mark countered the GOP seems to not realize many of them care far more about other issues such as social service programs like Medicare, Social Security and health care rather than immigration.

“That’s something Republicans don’t seem to want to change on and that’s a big problem for them,” he said.

That divide could further erode the GOP’s shrinking base. Mark pointed out voters are now 72 percent white nationally, down from 87 percent when Bill Clinton was elected in 1992.

“For now, they can still win elections. The problem is in the future, years down the line they’re going to be left with nothing, no kind of political support,” he warned.

The challenge facing the GOP is reminiscent of the internal struggles Democrats faced after losing three straight presidential elections in the 1980’s, which led to a number of compromises within the party that ultimately led to Clinton’s election.

But making such changes could be more difficult for the GOP, Mark said, because the party remains sharply divided internally. He pointed to the various factions within the party from moderate Republicans to staunch conservatives willing to compromise – such as House speaker John Boehner – to the uncompromising tea party wing of the party. He said if they can’t make peace among themselves, they’ll be hard pressed to retake the White House in 2016.

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