Six months after Republicans took a drubbing in the 2012 elections, the party now has a clear picture of what must change to win future contests. With a long postelection era of lost-in-the-wilderness philosophizing behind them, party leaders say they are ready to set their new plan for action into motion.
Activists from around the country will gather at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles beginning on Thursday for the Republican National Committee's three-day spring meeting. There, amid continued intraparty tension over issues like immigration reform and gay marriage, they plan to plunge headfirst into the gritty details of the business of winning elections.
The agenda calls for a series of private internal meetings about the party budget and rules, along with strategy sessions and workshops on voter outreach and party coordination.
On Friday, the group will break for a motivational trip to the Ronald Reagan Library in nearby Simi Valley—think of it as spa day meets religious pilgrimage for Republicans—where RNC members will spend five hours basking in the greatness of the Gipper.
Over the course of the meeting, RNC members will hear from speakers including Reagan's adopted son, Michael; Mia Love, a black Republican mayor from Utah who ran for Congress last year; Allen West, a single-term former House member from Florida; and California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
If the last RNC meeting in Charlotte, N.C., in January was about setting goals for the party, this meeting will focus on putting the party on a path to fulfill them, party leaders say.
After gathering advice from thousands of people across the country, the RNC invested significant resources to compile a massive report called the "Growth & Opportunity Project" that outlined in detail where the party went wrong in 2012.
"This time we have real tangible things that we're going to be discussing," RNC spokesman Sean Spicer told Yahoo News. "Things that we're going to take on from the Growth & Opportunity Project."
Many of those plans have already been set into motion.
Last month, Yahoo News reported that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus was building a massive new data-sharing program that will allow the party to better analyze voter behavior and dispatch resources during elections. This week, as part of an ongoing effort to engage minority voters, the RNC announced two new staff members to lead outreach efforts to Asian-American voters and will soon announce the names of new directors for initiatives to make inroads with black and Hispanic voters. Party leaders will also announce new staff responsible for coordinating communication between the national and state parties.
"During the meeting we will focus a great deal on ways we stay true to our principles and grow our ranks across all communities," according to an RNC memo provided to Yahoo News. "During our training sessions we will hear from activists, local elected officials, state party leaders and others who can share successful examples and tactics that we can learn from."
Of course, any march for growth comes with a significant amount of change, and there are some RNC members with lingering worries that the new outreach efforts could entice the party to abandon some of its principles.
Several prominent social conservatives, for example, reacted furiously to the Growth & Opportunity report when it was released because they said it did not adequately emphasize the role of the religious voters in the future of the GOP. They noted that the report called for the party to be more "inclusive" to gay and lesbian voters, a clause that set off alarm bells throughout the GOP, especially during a time when public opinion seems to be shifting in favor of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples.
At the meeting, a group of state party leaders is expected to submit a set of proposals to the RNC's Resolution Committee that aim to "re-affirm conservative principles." One in particular will take the temperature of the party's opposition to same-sex marriage. (The official Republican platform, which was approved at the national convention in August, calls for a constitutional amendment that would effectively ban same-sex marriage.)
According to the text of a marriage resolution, which was acquired by Yahoo News, the RNC panel will vote on a resolution stating, "[T]he Republican National Committee affirms its support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and as the optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America; and be it further resolved, the Republican National Committee implores the U. S. Supreme Court to uphold the sanctity of marriage in its rulings on California’s Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act."
While the result of the vote could reveal a headline-grabbing schism among party leaders over the issue, the same-sex marriage issue will likely not be the focal point of the conference. The goal for Republicans this week, if all goes well, is to avoid distractions and plot a path to fulfill Priebus' call at the last meeting to initiate growth and make the Republican Party competitive in all 50 states.
The party's success in elections over the next four years depends on it.
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