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Friday, Jul 25, 2014
Politics

GOP officials see progress after 2012 defeat

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TAMPA — The authors of last year’s post-2012 election “autopsy report” for the Republican Party said Monday they see progress implementing the recommendations of the report, including expanding the party’s appeal to minorities.

But they said change will be gradual, and couldn’t cite a lot of tangible results so far.

“I think we’ve made substantial progress,” said one of the authors, veteran Florida GOP strategist Sally Bradshaw. “The report did not sit on a shelf.”

The report, titled the Growth and Opportunity Project, was intended to analyze the party’s failings in the 2012 election and recommend new strategies for the future.

In a conference call with reporters, Bradshaw cited the win by Republican David Jolly in Pinellas County’s special congressional election last week, saying it was aided by improved digital capabilities in campaigns — a focus of the report.

Others cited increases in GOP field staff to reach out to minority communities, and new Republican presidential primary rules intended to shorten long, drawn-out primary battles and make primary debates showcase GOP candidates more favorably.

“We’ll make sure we pick our moderators and not just take whoever is offered to us” in presidential primary debates, said another author, Henry Barbour, a GOP activist from Mississippi.

The report authors said changes are being implemented that will result in more success for the party in the future, but it will take time.

“This is putting us back on the path of winning elections,” said Zori Fonalledas, a Puerto Rican delegate to the Republican National Committee.

Barbour added, “Such a huge undertaking, it’s going to take years … as we try to grow beyond our traditional base.”

Bradshaw said change within the party will be gradual and incremental — “a marathon, not a sprint” — and that without the report, “You would not have seen the level of discussion of these issues” that’s now occurring.

Not every Republican is that optimistic, however.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the leaders in the early field of possible 2016 GOP presidential contenders, told an interviewer last month, “Republicans will not win again in my lifetime for the presidency unless they become a new GOP ... a transformation, not just a little tweaking of the edges.”

Barbour and Bradshaw said they weren’t familiar with Paul’s comments.

Reporters also asked about an issue perceived by some as one of the party’s biggest problems in minority outreach — the intractable opposition of many Republicans to any immigration reform bill offering a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.

In response, Bradshaw said federal issues aren’t the only ones that matter, and cited progress at the state level, including a GOP-backed bill in the state Legislature to allow in-state university tuition for Florida children whose parents are in the country illegally.

She also cited the case of state Rep. Mike Hill of Pensacola Beach, who won a competitive Republican primary last summer in a conservative district to become the only current black Republican state House member.

Many Republicans and independent political analysts said after the 2012 election that the Republican Party’s alienation from young people and fast-growing demographic minorities could doom the GOP.

wmarch@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7761

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