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Priebus: GOP Must Improve Community-Based Outreach

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Priebus is prepared to spend the next two years prioritizing the improvement and modernization of the committee’s outdated and overmatched voter-turnout operation.

Maybe there’s something to this community organizing thing after all.

Republicans have regularly ridiculed President Barack Obama as a community organizer who lacks the experience to govern and manage the recovery of a struggling economy. But politically, at least, top Republicans tacitly concede that the GOP needs to emulate Obama if the party hopes to improve its prospects in the 2016 presidential election, build durable support among ethnic minorities and rehabilitate the party’s brand overall.

That was the message telegraphed by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in a wide-ranging interview to discuss his plans for a second two-year term at the helm of the RNC. After spending his first term focused on reviving RNC fundraising and streamlining day-to-day business activities, Priebus is prepared to spend the next two years prioritizing the improvement and modernization of the committee’s woefully outdated and overmatched voter-turnout operation.

“I think what you’re going to see us have to do, which I think is important and I think it’s about time, is to get granular and community-based in our outreach, and I think it means over a long period of time,” Priebus told CQ Roll Call late last week.

“I think that the idea of this one-year monster campaign is overwith,” Priebus continued. “And, while it’s difficult without a president, we’re going to have to do the best job we can in being community-based, probably pretty large in size and scope over a three- [to] three-and-a-half year period leading up to the presidential campaign. It’s going to help in the off-year; it’s going to help in four years.”

Priebus, who thus far is running unopposed for re-election as RNC chairman, was frank in his assessment of the party’s problems and challenges in national elections. He acknowledged that the Obama campaign’s ground game remains light-years ahead of anything the GOP is capable of fielding and was matter-of-fact that Republicans have to broaden their appeal with nonwhite voters to improve their competitiveness in presidential contests.

Gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, where Republican Gov. Chris Christie is running for re-election, as well as the 2014 midterm congressional elections, are the RNC’s immediate responsibility. Priebus said he has already met with Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, incoming chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee; and Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, incoming chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, to discuss how the RNC can assist the campaign committees in 2014.

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