Repub­li­cans lose more key vot­ers they’ve tried to reach

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Emerg­ing from the 2012 elec­tions, the Repub­li­can Party’s for­mal post­mortem con­cluded it needed to do a bet­ter job reach­ing women, mi­nori­ties and young vot­ers. A year later, they are fail­ing on each of those scores — and the gov­ern­ment shut­down set them back even more.

Polling af­ter the 16-day shut­down, which ended last week in a near-com­plete vic­tory for Pres­i­dent Obama, showed the party polling poorly among all three key groups the party said it wanted to reach.

In­deed, ma­jori­ties of women, younger gen­er­a­tion and non-white vot­ers now say it’s a bad thing that the Repub­li­can Party con­trols the House.

“By tak­ing such a hard line on this topic, the party re­in­forced neg­a­tive per­cep­tions of ex­trem­ism and un­will­ing­ness to com­pro­mise,” said Dar­rell M. West of the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion. “Fiery rhetoric helps with the base but does a poor job reach­ing out to young peo­ple and women.”

Over­all, the Repub­li­can Party has strug­gled to meet the broad goals of its Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Project — the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s 100-page eval­u­a­tion of what went wrong with the 2012 elec­tions.

Among the other rec­om­men­da­tions were that the party im­prove fundrais­ing, fix its polling and find a way to harness grass-roots sup­port­ers.

But the lat­est fundrais­ing num­bers show na­tional Demo­cratic Party com­mit­tees nar­rowly out­pac­ing Repub­li­cans, for the fist time since the elec­tion. The bud­get show­down con­tin­ued to ex­pose bit­ter di­vi­sions be­tween rank-and­file vot­ers and the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment that plagued the party dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial pri­maries.

The split was ap­par­ent in Congress, where lead­ers struck a deal to raise the debt and re­open gov­ern­ment with­out win­ning any con­ces­sions on cut­ting spend­ing.

Most Repub­li­cans in Congress voted against the deal. Tea party can­di­dates hop­ing to unseat in­cum­bents are us­ing the debt vote as am­mu­ni­tion, but some key House Repub­li­cans eye­ing Se­nate seats next year voted for the deal. Reps. Tom Cot­ton of Arkansas, Shel­ley Moore Capito of West Vir­ginia and Steve Daines of Mon­tana were among the 87 House Repub­li­cans who joined 198 Democrats to sup­port the debt deal.

RNC spokes­woman Kirsten Kukowski said that once the dust set­tles from the leg­isla­tive fight, it will be clear that the party is headed in the right di­rec­tion over the long haul.

“In the short term, ev­ery­one agrees this process was messy. We tried but we didn’t win,” Ms. Kukowski said. “In the long run, we are on the right side of the is­sues from Oba­macare to spend­ing and our debt and we will be re­warded for be­ing the only party with a plan to get them un­der con­trol. From the RNC per­spec­tive, we have more field staff on the ground than ever be­fore who are mak­ing daily per­sonal con­tacts on the im­por­tant is­sues.”

The Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Project was meant to look at how 2012 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney lost a race that many Repub­li­can strate­gists thought was winnable, against an in­cum­bent pres­i­dent over­see­ing a slug­gish econ­omy and high un­em­ploy­ment.

The re­port au­thors con­cluded that the party needed to build the be­hind-the-scenes po­lit­i­cal ma­chin­ery to en­gage in com­bat with Democrats, as well as find a way to con­nect with young, fe­male and mi­nor­ity vot­ers — par­tic­u­larly His­pan­ics who “wrongly think that Repub­li­cans do not like them or want them in the coun­try.”

“We are not a pol­icy com­mit­tee, but among the steps Repub­li­cans take in the His­panic com­mu­nity and be­yond, we must em­brace and cham­pion com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form. If we do not, our Party’s ap­peal will con­tinue to shrink to its core con­stituen­cies only,” the re­port said.

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