After taking a severe beating in the last presidential election, the Republican National Committee seems to be changing strategy by reaching out to constituent voters normally outside of GOP reach.
Party Chairman Reince Priebus made a recent visit to Detroit where he talked to the party leadership about the Republicans’ Growth and Opportunity Plan.
“One of the things we want to do is get far more active in Michigan on a year-round basis,” Priebus said in an interview with the Michigan Chronicle. “And that includes Detroit and a massive outreach effort in the African-American community.”
Priebus, who was a surrogate for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, acknowledged that the Republican Party has to do a better job of reaching out to Black voters.
He said the Republican Party vision is to become a national party with a six-month operation before Election Day.
“We have to be a year-round party,” he said. “I believe that if you don’t show up and ask for the order, you can’t make the sale. And our party, on the national level, has not been showing up on a year-round basis in communities across this country.”
He said that’s what it’s going to take to win.
Page four of the RNC Growth and Opportunity Book says, “Many minorities think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country.”
Asked what he thinks is the main cause of this perception, Priebus said he believes it comes from a statement Mitt Romney made about “self-deportation” in one of the debates.
“I can tell you that in the Hispanic community that was a devastating remark,” he said. “And the problem is, of course, if people don’t think that you like them, they’re not going to vote for you.”
He said that wasn’t Romney’s intention, but by saying “self-deportation,” Romney created a hurdle the GOP has to overcome.
Priebus noted that if the GOP doesn’t have a ground operation in communities year-round, there’s no other narrative than that coming from either “the “Barack Obama world” or “the media world.”
“So the caricature becomes the truth, because you have nothing out there in the community defending you,” he said. “And I never want to see our party be a five-month party ever again.”
Asked what steps the GOP is taking to convince minorities to vote for Republican candidates, even if they’re not willing to join the party itself, Priebus said they can find common ground.
“I think there’s lots of common ground,” he said. “I think, obviously, jobs and the economy is common ground. But I also think things like school choice, private school choice and charter schools is common ground.”
According to Priebus, the GOP has been championing school choice across the country, and it has been very well received in the African- American community.
“But our party has to do better job of talking about it,” he said.
Priebus said it’s also important to defend the party.
“The party of equality, freedom and opportunity,” he said. “And our rich history, that we don’t tell enough, I don’t believe, to people across the country. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a flier that said ‘I’m a Republican because…?’”
He said Republicans don’t talk about their “brand,” adding that not promoting said brand on a year-round basis causes the party to suffer.
“I do believe our brand has suffered, and I believe it’s suffered because we don’t talk about it, we don’t promote it, and I don’t know if we fight for it enough,” he said. “But that’s going to change over the next several years in our party, and that’s the new plan for the Republican National Committee.”
Asked about the perception that voter ID laws target minorities, Priebus maintained that such laws don’t do that. He said the idea of ballot security is for all parts of the state.
“There’s no targeting of any community,” he said.
Priebus said the point of it is that they want to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.
“I think that simply requiring photo identification has anything to do with trying to prevent anyone from voting,” he said. “It has to do with making sure the election has some level of integrity.”
He said he’s not saying the GOP is losing elections because of open voting.
“That’s not the point,” he said. “But I do think we have a responsibility to make sure an election has as much integrity as possible.”
He said the Democrats are twisting the issue around, trying to play it off as being something it’s not.
“This only has to do with making sure that elections have the integrity they deserve; and making it harder for people to cheat, but easier for everyone to vote and to have their vote counted,” Priebus said.
He pointed out that the way the GOP is assuaging concerns that minorities are being targeted is by hiring hundreds of people across the county in an off year to get in communities where the Republican Party hasn’t had enough of a presence, to talk about these issues and to have candidate forums.
This involves such things as going to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and going into Detroit with people who have been hired by the party to talk about the issues and to get to know people.
“I think that genuine, relationships that are built over time have a way of making some of these things come to light,” he said. “Truth will always prevail, but if you’re not there to communicate and set the record straight, then the record is what everybody else says it is.”
That’s his criticism of the party, and his antidote is to invest in ground operations in an off year, like they never have before.
“To talk to people, to build genuine relationships and to discuss these kinds of issues so the truth can be known,” he said.
Asked what he would have done differently with respect to reaching out to the African-American community, Priebus said he would have focused a lot more on education.
“I think there’s a lot of common ground there between our party and the African-American community,” he said, adding that the GOP didn’t focus on education issues enough during the presidential race.
He noted that those issues are important to every family in America.
“It’s important in our country to have educational choice and freedom,” Priebus said.
That is something they should have talked about but didn’t, he pointed out.
Priebus also reiterated the importance of the GOP being a year-round party in all communities.