The GOP's Two (Completely Opposite) Comeback Plans

The Atlantic Wire

The Republican Party has two comeback plans after the 2012 election, and they are total opposites: Plan A is to win presidential elections by appealing to broader audience that reflects America's "changing demographics." Plan B is to just change the rules of presidential elections so that rural white voters get a disproportional vote.

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In a speech accepting a second term as Republican National Committee chairman on Friday, Reince Priebus will talk about appealing to new voters, The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny reports. "To those who have left the party, we want to earn your trust again," Priebus will say. "To those who have yet to join us, we welcome you, with open doors and open arms." At the RNC's winter meeting Thursday, GOP leaders were clear about who those people are. The RNC's Glenn McCall was even more explicit about who the GOP needs to target, telling The Wall Street Journal, "There are large portions of the population—African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, young voters—who simply don't know us. We have to change that." McCall is not alone. "The demographic changes in America are real, and they are a wake-up call to the Republican Party," said Henry Barbour, the nephew of former RNC chair and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who decided against a 2012 presidential run after spending months trying to explain his way around comments praising segregationists.  The younger Barbour is on the Growth and Opportunity Project, the RNC's five-member panel that's supposed to figure out a comeback plan. 

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But the RNC must know that appealing to those groups will be difficult, and changing their minds could take a long time. In the meantime, Priebus is backing a plan that would massively dilute the voting power of the exact same people he says he'll greet with open arms. Virginia's state legislature is working on apportioning its presidential election votes by congressional district, instead of giving them all to the candidate who wins the most votes statewide. With the old rules, President Obama won a majority of votes in the 2012 election, and therefore won all of Virginia's 13 electoral votes. With the proposed new rules, Mitt Romney would have won more than twice as many electoral votes as Obama -- nine to the president's four -- despite losing by almost 150,000 votes. This means the votes of rural white people -- the GOP's current core voting bloc -- would be worth far more than the votes of people in cities and suburbs, the people the GOP says it wants to peel off from Democrats. 

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For all his talk about reaching out to voters "who have yet to join" the GOP, this is something Priebus is cheering on. Virginia's proposed rule change is something "a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at," Priebus told The Washington Post's Nia-Malika Henderson and Errin Haines. That would include Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

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