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Republicans' Finger-Pointing Aimed at Themselves

The RNC has moved to minimize divisions over the task force and its findings, and it’s trying to engender broad support for its recommendations by moving slowly and talking to a broad range of party officials and grass-roots activists. Task force members include Henry Barbour, nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour; Sally Bradshaw, a Florida GOP consultant close to former Gov. Jeb Bush; and Ari Fleischer, press secretary under President George W. Bush.

Ohio GOP official David Hopcraft sounded optimistic, saying he expects the party to avoid the internecine squabbles that have become commonplace in recent election cycles. Hopcraft, whose state is regularly at the center of presidential and congressional elections and has a strong GOP establishment, said his sense from talking to Republicans since November is that they have a renewed understanding that establishing conservative governance requires winning elections.

“Nothing gets your attention like a loss,” he said.

What bodes well for the overhaul effort — based conversations with RNC members in Charlotte — was the near-complete absence of complaints that Obama won re-election by illegitimate or unfair means. Rather, Republicans were pointing fingers squarely at themselves. In the immediate aftermath of the 2012 elections, there was talk in some activist circles about voter fraud, a biased media and Obama using government handouts to buy voter support. (Romney suggested as much.)

Priebus mentioned Obama and the Democrats sparingly in his re-election victory speech to RNC members. His toughest words were reserved for RNC members in the room and the GOP in general.

Priebus said the GOP must “articulate” what it stands for in ways that are “modern” and “relatable” to a majority of voters. He called on Republicans to maintain their principles but to also embrace a wholesale overhaul of the GOP’s political strategy and communications rhetoric.

Talking to reporters just before the winter meeting concluded, Priebus used phrases such as “course correction” to emphasize the breadth of change he believes is necessary.

“While we were playing footsie debating each other 22 times, [the Obama campaign was] spending $100 million on technology,” Priebus said. “And if we’re being honest about it, we have not really won a decisive presidential election since 1988. So what are we going to do about it? And that’s the question.”

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