CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called on the Republican Party to "stop being the stupid party" on Thursday as GOP leaders promised fundamental changes to help stave off future losses.
In the keynote address at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting, Jindal said the GOP doesn't need to change its values but "might need to change just about everything else we are doing."
"We've got to stop being the stupid party. It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults," he said. "We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I'm here to say we've had enough of that."
Jindal, thought to be a potential 2016 presidential contender, offered little detail in the 25-minute address. He called on conservatives to shift their focus from Capitol Hill number crunching to "the place where conservatism thrives — in the real world beyond the Washington Beltway."
Hours before the speech, Republican leaders promised to release in March a report, dubbed the "Growth and Opportunity Project," outlining recommendations on party rules and messaging designed to appeal to a rapidly changing American electorate. President Barack Obama's November victory was fueled, in part, by overwhelming support from the nation's Hispanic, Asian and African-American communities.
"Losing is not fun. We want to win," said GOP strategist Sally Bradshaw, who is among five people appointed by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to craft the report.
"I think you're going to see a very renewed, aggressive effort by this party to put on a different face," Bradshaw said. "We are going to go into areas that we do not go into and see folks that we do not see."
Republicans presidential nominee Mitt Romney struggled last fall to win over women and minorities, who overwhelmingly favored President Barack Obama's re-election bid. GOP officials conceded this week that they must change their tone and message, if not their policies, if they hope to expand their appeal in the coming years.
Romney alienated many Hispanic voters by highlighting his support for a fence along the Mexican border and "self-deportation" of illegal immigrants. Down-ticket Republican candidates alienated female voters by backing new abortion laws in a handful of swing states like Virginia and New Hampshire, while Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri hurt himself and his party by declaring that women's bodies could prevent pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."
GOP strategist Ari Fleischer suggested that his party could learn an important lesson from Democrats on messaging: "Republicans talk policy and Democrats talk people. Republicans can learn a little bit from Democrats on how to make those people connections with our policies."
Asked whether he was considering a presidential bid in 2016, Jindal brushed aside the question. "Any Republican that's thinking about talking about running for president in 2016 needs to get his head examined," he said. "We've got a lot of work to do."
He called on conservatives to stop fighting with Democrats on their terms about the size of government in Washington and focus instead on connecting with voters across the nation.
"Today's conservatism is completely wrapped up in solving the hideous mess that is the federal budget, the burgeoning deficits, the mammoth federal debt, the shortfall in our entitlement programs," he said. "We seem to have an obsession with government bookkeeping. This is a rigged game, and it is the wrong game for us to play."
Jindal's comments come a day after the House passed a bill to permit the government to borrow enough money to avoid a first-time default for at least four months, defusing a looming crisis setting up a springtime debate over taxes, spending and the deficit. The House passed the measure on a bipartisan basis as majority Republicans back away from their previous demand that any increase in the government's borrowing cap be paired with an equivalent level of spending cuts.
The Louisiana governor's blunt remarks follow criticism from another high-profile Republican based outside Washington who publicly blasted GOP leadership on Capitol Hill: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
One of the party's most popular voices, Christie earlier in the month criticized his party's "toxic internal politics" after House Republicans initially declined to approve disaster relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy. He said it was "disgusting to watch" their actions and he faulted the GOP's most powerful elected official, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting Thursday that Republicans also need to develop a sound strategy for confronting the Obama administration, suggesting House Republicans could use hearings to expose waste and promote better ideas.
"A lot of Republicans, frankly, spent the last two years saying, 'Oh, gee, we don't have to do much because after Obama loses we'll work with the new Republican president.' Well, that world ain't there," Gingrich said. "So now they have to make adjustments. They've got to understand that this is a different game."