“You don’t have anybody over 6 foot 5 on our (study) committee, or anyone from the West Coast, or whatever,” said panel member Henry Barbour, a Republican committeeman from Mississippi.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich argued, however, that the tea party not only remains relevant but also has been important in party successes. He pointed to candidates who’ve won with its support and asked, “Do you think that once they’re elected they don’t count anymore?”
Candidates backed by the tea party, or those considered favorites of die-hard conservatives, beat more mainstream Senate Republicans in several states over the last two years. Had some of the center-right Republicans won in states such as Delaware, Nevada and Indiana, the party very well might control the Senate today. Democrats control 55 of its 100 seats.
Nor was there much talk about some of the party’s extremes – candidates whose views cost them winnable elections – other than vague references to the problem, as what happened in Missouri last fall. Conservative Todd Akin won the state's Republican U.S. Senate primary, but was hurt by his comments about "legitimate rape" and lost the general election to incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
“We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters,” Jindal told a dinner crowd Thursday night.
Party officials instead wanted to talk “about relationships,” said Glenn McCall, a national committeeman from South Carolina, one of the members of the outreach study committee.
“Whether it’s a college activist recruiting volunteers in Pasadena, or a small-business woman running for town council in New Jersey, let’s host Skype-based training sessions and Google hangouts on campaign strategy, fundraising, door-to-door advocacy and digital tools,” Priebus said. “We need to give the next generation of organizers access to the brightest experts.’
There was little talk, though, about how to set these tactics in motion.
Fleischer described Republicans today as a “tale of two parties.”
One has governors who reflect their constituencies on policy and win in supposedly non-Republican states, such as Chris Christie in New Jersey and Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Then there’s the other face of the party, with the reputation of being too narrowly focused.
“Look at the federal candidates,” said Fleischer. “That’s where the challenge really lies.”