(AP) — To hear some Republicans tell it, their party needs to get with the times.
Some of the early prescriptions offered by officials and operatives to rebuild after a devastating loss: retool the party message to appeal to Latinos, women and working-class people; upgrade antiquated get-out-the-vote systems with the latest technology; teach candidates how to handle the new media landscape.
From longtime Republican luminaries to the party’s rising stars, almost everyone asked about the Republicans’ Nov. 6 election drubbing seems to agree that a wholesale update is necessary for a party that appears to be running years behind Democrats in adapting to rapidly changing campaigns and an evolving electorate.
Interviews with more than a dozen Republicans at all levels of the party indicated that post-election soul-searching must quickly turn into a period of action.
”We’ve got to have a very brutally honest review from stem to stern of what we did and what we didn’t do, and what worked and what failed,” said former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who ran the party in the 1990s.
The party ”has to modernize in a whole wide range of ways,” added former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who ran against White House nominee Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential primary. ”We were clearly wrong on a whole range of fronts.”
To determine what went wrong, the Republican National Committee is examining every detail of the 2012 elections, with the goal of rebuilding the party for the future _ much as the Democratic Party did in the 1980s after suffering a series of stinging losses at all levels of government.
The scale of the losses largely shocked a party whose top-shelf operatives went into Election Day believing Republicans had at least a decent chance of capturing the White House and gaining ground in Congress, where Republicans controlled the House of Representatives and had a sizable minority in the Senate.
How to move forward dominated the discussions at the recent Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal attributed Romney’s loss to a lack of ”a specific vision that connected with the American people.”
“We need to make sure that we’re not perceived as intolerant,” said Ron Kaufman, a veteran Republican strategist who advised Romney’s campaign. ”The bottom line is we were perceived to be intolerant on some issues. And tone-deaf on others.”
Many Republicans say the party doesn’t have a choice but to change _ and quickly.
Said Kaufmann: “In this business, either you learn and grow or you die.”